Speaker: Dr. Steven Brown – McMaster University Title: “Origins of the Vocal Brain in Humans”
The evolution of vocal communication in humans required the emergence of not only voluntary control of the vocal apparatus and flexible vocal repertoires, but the capacity for vocal learning. All of these capacities are lacking in non-human primates, suggesting that the vocal brain underwent significant modifications during human evolution. I will focus here on the larynx motor cortex – the major regulator of vocalization for both speech and song – and describe the changes to its organization, location, and functionality in humans, compared to monkeys and apes. I will next explore scenarios for how this novel region might have acquired the necessary connectivity from auditory areas in order to mediate vocal learning, and how this change in connectivity was related to the change in cortical organization and function.