Rapid modulations of the vocal structure in marmoset monkeys

Lingyun Zhao, Sabyasachi Roy, Xiaoqin Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Humans and some animal species show flexibility in vocal production either voluntarily or in response to environmental cues. Studies have shown rapid spectrotemporal changes in speech or vocalizations during altered auditory feedback in humans, songbirds and bats. Non-human primates, however, have long been considered lacking the ability to modify spectrotemporal structures of their vocalizations. Here we tested the ability of the common marmoset (Callithrix jacchus), a highly vocal New World primate species to alter spectral and temporal structures of their species-specific vocalizations in the presence of perturbation signals. By presenting perturbation noises while marmosets were vocalizing phee calls, we showed that they were able to change in real-time the duration or spectral trajectory of an ongoing phee phrase by either terminating it before its completion, making rapid shifts in fundamental frequency or in some cases prolonging the duration beyond the natural range of phee calls. In some animals, we observed fragmented phee calls which were not produced by marmosets in their natural environment. Interestingly, some perturbation-induced changes persisted even in the absence of the perturbation noises. These observations provide further evidence that marmoset monkeys are capable of rapidly modulating their vocal structure and suggested potential voluntary vocal control by this non-human primate species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number107811
JournalHearing Research
StatePublished - Dec 2019


  • Marmoset
  • Perturbation
  • Vocal control

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sensory Systems


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