Neuroscientists Decode the Monkey Vocabulary

The conclusion of a study led by a team of researchers at University of Tubingen with head being Dr. Steffen Hage of the Werner Reichardt Centre for Integrative Neuroscience (CIN) stated that all the sounds produced by marmoset monkeys from short 'tsiks' and 'ekks' to drawn out 'phees' are made of individual syllables. All the syllables have a fixed length. The study was published in Current Biology a while ago. To understand the evolution of human speech, it is crucial to understand the biological basis of primates.

This research group is working with marmoset monkeys which is a primate species from South America. Marmosets are considered to be far more related to us. The researchers recorded a number of instances in which little monkeys made sounds of 'ekks' and 'phees' in a sound chamber. Monkeys' natural vocalisation was interrupted with white noise at irregular intervals. The group effectively 'talked over' the marmosets, leading them to become quiet. The results as explained by the authors concluded that the 'phee' is the basic vocabulary alongside 'tsik' and 'ekk'. When they were interfered with noise, they will stop in the middle of their 'phee' calls. The results proved that marmoset monkeys not only possess a 'hardwired' rhythm just like us to control their vocalisation but the rhythm was also similarly fast. This study can provide the requisite clues to comprehend the origins and characteristics of the human speech.

 By: Neha Maheshwari



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