Research ArticleNEUROSCIENCE

Limiting parental interaction during vocal development affects acoustic call structure in marmoset monkeys

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Science Advances  11 Apr 2018:
Vol. 4, no. 4, eaar4012
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aar4012


Human vocal development is dependent on learning by imitation through social feedback between infants and caregivers. Recent studies have revealed that vocal development is also influenced by parental feedback in marmoset monkeys, suggesting vocal learning mechanisms in nonhuman primates. Marmoset infants that experience more contingent vocal feedback than their littermates develop vocalizations more rapidly, and infant marmosets with limited parental interaction exhibit immature vocal behavior beyond infancy. However, it is yet unclear whether direct parental interaction is an obligate requirement for proper vocal development because all monkeys in the aforementioned studies were able to produce the adult call repertoire after infancy. Using quantitative measures to compare distinct call parameters and vocal sequence structure, we show that social interaction has a direct impact not only on the maturation of the vocal behavior but also on acoustic call structures during vocal development. Monkeys with limited parental interaction during development show systematic differences in call entropy, a measure for maturity, compared with their normally raised siblings. In addition, different call types were occasionally uttered in motif-like sequences similar to those exhibited by vocal learners, such as birds and humans, in early vocal development. These results indicate that a lack of parental interaction leads to long-term disturbances in the acoustic structure of marmoset vocalizations, suggesting an imperative role for social interaction in proper primate vocal development.

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