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The Lombard effect emerges early in young bats: Implications for the development of audio-vocal integration

J Exp Biol 220: 1032-1037. doi: 10.1242/jeb.151050. Epub 2016 Dec 23.

Authors/Editors: Luo J
Lingner A
Firzlaff U
Wiegrebe L
Publication Date: 2017
Type of Publication: Journal Articles 2001 - 2017

Abstract

Auditory feedback plays an important role in vocal learning and, more generally, in fine-tuning the acoustic features of communication signals. So far, only a few studies have assessed the developmental onset of auditory feedback. The Lombard effect, a well-studied audio-vocal phenomenon, refers to an increase in vocal loudness of a subject in response to an increase in background noise. Here, we studied the time course of the Lombard effect in developing bats, Phyllostomus discolor We show that infant bats produced louder vocalizations in noise than in silence at an age of only two weeks. In contrast, the infant bats' morphology and vocalizations changed gradually until two months of age. Furthermore, we found that the Lombard magnitude, i.e. how much the bats increased their vocal loudness in noise relative to silence, correlated positively with the age of the infant bats. We conclude that the Lombard effect features an early developmental origin, indicating a fast maturation of the underlying neural circuits for audio-vocal feedback.

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