Sensory feedback control of mammalian vocalizations. Academic Article uri icon


  • Somatosensory and auditory feedback mechanisms are dynamic components of the vocal motor pattern generator in mammals. This review explores how sensory cues arising from central auditory and somatosensory pathways actively guide the production of both simple sounds and complex phrases in mammals. While human speech is a uniquely sophisticated example of mammalian vocal behavior, other mammals can serve as examples of how sensory feedback guides complex vocal patterns. Echolocating bats in particular are unique in their absolute dependence on voice control for survival: these animals must constantly adjust the acoustic and temporal patterns of their orientation sounds to efficiently navigate and forage for insects at high speeds under the cover of darkness. Many species of bats also utter a broad repertoire of communication sounds. The functional neuroanatomy of the bat vocal motor pathway is basically identical to other mammals, but the acute significance of sensory feedback in echolocation has made this a profitable model system for studying general principles of sensorimotor integration with regard to vocalizing. Bats and humans are similar in that they both maintain precise control of many different voice parameters, both exhibit a similar suite of responses to altered auditory feedback, and for both the efficacy of sensory feedback depends upon behavioral context. By comparing similarities and differences in the ways sensory feedback influences voice in humans and bats, we may shed light on the basic architecture of the mammalian vocal motor system and perhaps be able to better distinguish those features of human vocal control that evolved uniquely in support of speech and language.

published proceedings

  • Behav Brain Res

altmetric score

  • 3

author list (cited authors)

  • Smotherman, M. S.

citation count

  • 48

complete list of authors

  • Smotherman, Michael S

publication date

  • January 2007