High-field Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging of Vocalization Processing in Marmosets

http://www.biorxiv.org/content/early/2014/10/20/010561.abstract

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Vocalizations are behaviorally critical sounds, and this behavioral importance is reflected in the ascending auditory system, where conspecific vocalizations are increasingly over-represented at higher processing stages. Recent evidence suggests that, in macaques, this increasing selectivity for vocalizations might culminate in a cortical region that is densely populated by vocalization-preferring neurons. Such a region might be a critical node in the representation of vocal communication sounds, underlying the recognition of vocalization type, caller and social context. These results raise the questions of whether cortical specializations for vocalization processing exist in other species, their cortical location, and their relationship to the auditory processing hierarchy. To explore cortical specializations for vocalizations in another species, we performed high-field fMRI of the auditory cortex of a vocal New World primate, the common marmoset (Callithrix jacchus). Using a sparse imaging paradigm, we discovered a caudal-rostral gradient for the processing of conspecific vocalizations in marmoset auditory cortex, with regions of the anterior temporal lobe close to the temporal pole exhibiting the highest preference for vocalizations. These results demonstrate similar cortical specializations for vocalization processing in macaques and marmosets, suggesting that cortical specializations for vocal processing might have evolved before the lineages of these species diverged.
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