Vocal state change through laryngeal development

Yisi S. Zhang, Daniel Y. Takahashi, Diana A. Liao, Asif A. Ghazanfar, Coen P.H. Elemans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Across vertebrates, progressive changes in vocal behavior during postnatal development are typically attributed solely to developing neural circuits. How the changing body influences vocal development remains unknown. Here we show that state changes in the contact vocalizations of infant marmoset monkeys, which transition from noisy, low frequency cries to tonal, higher pitched vocalizations in adults, are caused partially by laryngeal development. Combining analyses of natural vocalizations, motorized excised larynx experiments, tensile material tests and high-speed imaging, we show that vocal state transition occurs via a sound source switch from vocal folds to apical vocal membranes, producing louder vocalizations with higher efficiency. We show with an empirically based model of descending motor control how neural circuits could interact with changing laryngeal dynamics, leading to adaptive vocal development. Our results emphasize the importance of embodied approaches to vocal development, where exploiting biomechanical consequences of changing material properties can simplify motor control, reducing the computational load on the developing brain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number4592
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • General
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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