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Data from: Poor neuro-motor tuning of the human larynx: comparison of sung and whistled pitch imitation

Citation

Belyk, Michel; Johnson, Joseph F.; Kotz, Sonja A. (2018), Data from: Poor neuro-motor tuning of the human larynx: comparison of sung and whistled pitch imitation, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.504t7

Abstract

Vocal imitation is a hallmark of human communication that underlies the capacity to learn to speak and sing. Even so, poor vocal imitation abilities are surprisingly common in the general population, and even expert vocalists cannot match the precision of a musical instrument. Although humans have evolved a greater degree of control over the laryngeal muscles that govern vocal pitch production, this ability may still be underdeveloped compared to control over the articulatory muscles, such as the tongue and lips, volitional control of which emerged earlier in primate evolution. Human participants imitated simple melodies by either singing (i.e., producing pitch with the larynx) or whistling (i.e., producing pitch with the lips and tongue). While participants who sung more precisely also whistled more precisely, sung imitations were less precise than whistled imitations. Furthermore, sung notes were systematically biased towards each individual’s habitual pitch, which may act to conserve muscular effort. The laryngeal muscles that control voice production are under less precise control than the oral muscles that are involved in whistling. This imprecision may be due to the relatively recent evolution of volitional laryngeal-motor control in humans, which may be tuned just well enough for the coarse modulation of vocal-pitch in speech.

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