- Published on 18 June 2019
New US brain research has shown that humans are more sensitive to pitch differences in sound than certain apes, suggesting possible links between the musicality of human speech and our evolutionary development.
Functional MRI scans were used by scientists to look at how both humans and rhesus macaque apes brain respond to the harmonic tones that characterise both music and speech. Scans initially showed little difference, but closer analysis by researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Laboratory of Sensorimotor Research, of the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health revealed that human brains showed cortical regions with a strong preference for harmonic sounds compared to noise, while the monkeys seemed not to distinguish between regular noise and harmonic tones.
The "species difference may be driven by the unique demands of speech and music perception in humans," reads the study, published in June 2019 in Nature Neuroscience.
"The results raise the possibility that these sounds, which are embedded in speech and music, may have shaped the basic organisation of the human brain." commented Dr. Bevil Conway, one of the four researchers behind this investigation. He also suggests that these findings could shed light on why it is so difficult to train monkeys to perform auditory tasks that humans manage with ease.
The scientists offer a more extensive explanation of their research in a video on YouTube.