Cerebral Activity in Female Baboons (Papio anubis) During the Perception of Conspecific and Heterospecific Agonistic Vocalizations: a Functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy Study


Abstract The “voice areas” in the superior temporal cortex have been identified in both humans and non-human primates as selective to conspecific vocalizations only (i.e., expressed by members of our own species), suggesting its old evolutionary roots across the primate lineage. With respect to non-human primate species, it remains unclear whether the listening of vocal emotions from conspecifics leads to similar or different cerebral activations when compared to heterospecific calls (i.e., expressed by another primate species) triggered by the same emotion. Using a neuroimaging technique rarely employed in monkeys so far, functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy, the present study investigated in three lightly anesthetized female baboons ( Papio anubis ), temporal cortex activities during exposure to agonistic vocalizations from conspecifics and from other primates (chimpanzees— Pan troglodytes ), and energy matched white noises in order to control for this low-level acoustic feature. Permutation test analyses on the extracted OxyHemoglobin signal revealed great inter-individual differences on how conspecific and heterospecific vocal stimuli were processed in baboon brains with a cortical response recorded either in the right or the left temporal cortex. No difference was found between emotional vocalizations and their energy-matched white noises. Despite the phylogenetic gap between Homo sapiens and African monkeys, modern humans and baboons both showed a highly heterogeneous brain process for the perception of vocal and emotional stimuli. The results of this study do not exclude that old evolutionary mechanisms for vocal emotional processing may be shared and inherited from our common ancestor.

Affective Science