Central Control of Monkey Calls

  • Uwe Jürgens


The central nervous control of monkey calls differs in several respects from that of human speech. This is mainly due to three reasons. Firstly, monkey calls are genetically preprogrammed in their acoustic structure, whereas human speech has to be learned by imitation. We know from acoustic deprivation experiments in the squirrel monkey, in which infants were raised by muted mothers, that these infants develop all fundamental call types of the species’ vocal repertoire without ever having heard a call from a conspecific (Winter et al. 1974). As a consequence, a number of brain structures known to play an essential role in motor learning are dispensable for monkey calls but indispensable for human speech. Such brain structures are, for instance, the primary motor cortex, premotor cortex, caudatoputamen, cerebellum and ventrolateral thalamus. In the case of the primary motor cortex and premotor cortex, we could demonstrate that an exact reduplication of a lesion, which had caused muteness in a human patient, had no effect at all on vocalization in the squirrel monkey (Jurgens et al. 1982). In the case of the caudatoputamen, cerebellum and ventrolateral thalamus, there are several reports in the neurological literature which show that lesions within these structures cause speech disturbances in man (Botez and Barbeau 1971; Brunner et al. 1982; Darley et al. 1975; Reynolds et al. 1979; Samra et al. 1969). In contrast, lesion studies in the squirrel monkey revealed that these lesions are without effect on monkey calls (Kirzinger 1985;Kirzinger and Jurgens 1985).


Squirrel Monkey Primary Motor Cortex Alarm Call Human Speech Acoustic Structure 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Uwe Jürgens
    • 1
  1. 1.Max-Planck-Institut für PsychiatrieMünchen 40Germany

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