Remapping auditory-motor representations in voice production

Curr Biol. 2005 Oct 11;15(19):1768-72. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2005.08.063.


Evidence regarding visually guided limb movements suggests that the motor system learns and maintains neural maps between motor commands and sensory feedback. Such systems are hypothesized to be used in a feed-forward control strategy that permits precision and stability without the delays of direct feedback control. Human vocalizations involve precise control over vocal and respiratory muscles. However, little is known about the sensorimotor representations underlying speech production. Here, we manipulated the heard fundamental frequency of the voice during speech to demonstrate learning of auditory-motor maps. Mandarin speakers repeatedly produced words with specific pitch patterns (tone categories). On each successive utterance, the frequency of their auditory feedback was increased by 1/100 of a semitone until they heard their feedback one full semitone above their true pitch. Subjects automatically compensated for these changes by lowering their vocal pitch. When feedback was unexpectedly returned to normal, speakers significantly increased the pitch of their productions beyond their initial baseline frequency. This adaptation was found to generalize to the production of another tone category. However, results indicate that a more robust adaptation was produced for the tone that was spoken during feedback alteration. The immediate aftereffects suggest a global remapping of the auditory-motor relationship after an extremely brief training period. However, this learning does not represent a complete transformation of the mapping; rather, it is in part target dependent.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Discrimination Learning / physiology*
  • Efferent Pathways / physiology
  • Feedback, Psychological / physiology
  • Humans
  • Laryngeal Muscles / physiology*
  • Speech Acoustics*
  • Speech Production Measurement
  • Voice / physiology*