Understanding how the brain processes vocal communication sounds is one of the most challenging problems in neuroscience. Our understanding of how the cortex accomplishes this unique task should greatly facilitate our understanding of cortical mechanisms in general. Perception of species-specific communication sounds is an important aspect of the auditory behavior of many animal species and is crucial for their social interactions, reproductive success, and survival. The principles of neural representations of these behaviorally important sounds in the cerebral cortex have direct implications for the neural mechanisms underlying human speech perception. Our progress in this area has been relatively slow, compared with our understanding of other auditory functions such as echolocation and sound localization. This article discusses previous and current studies in this field, with emphasis on nonhuman primates, and proposes a conceptual platform to further our exploration of this frontier. It is argued that the prerequisite condition for understanding cortical mechanisms underlying communication sound perception and production is an appropriate animal model. Three issues are central to this work: (i) neural encoding of statistical structure of communication sounds, (ii) the role of behavioral relevance in shaping cortical representations, and (iii) sensory-motor interactions between vocal production and perception systems.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Number of pages||7|
|Journal||Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America|
|State||Published - Oct 24 2000|
ASJC Scopus subject areas