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Poster D64, Thursday, November 9, 6:15 – 7:30 pm, Harborview and Loch Raven Ballrooms

Auditory and visual sequence learning in humans and monkeys

Alice Milne1, Chris Petkov1, Ben Wilson1;1Institute of Neuroscience, Newcastle University, United Kingdom

Language flexibly supports the human ability to communicate using different sensory modalities. Moreover, syntactic operations engage certain overlapping regions in the human brain during reading in the visual modality and listening to language in the auditory domain. Although it has been argued that nonhuman primate communication is inherently multisensory, there are few direct comparisons of human and nonhuman primate abilities across sensory modalities. Artificial Grammar Learning (AGL) tasks can emulate ordering relationships between words in a sentence, however comparative AGL work has primarily investigated sequence learning in a single modality. We used an AGL paradigm to evaluate how humans and macaque monkeys respond to identically structured sequences of non-linguistic auditory or visual stimuli. In both modalities, the two species gave remarkably similar response patterns in the visual and auditory domains, indicating that the sequences are processed comparably across the sensory modalities. We next conducted an fMRI experiment using the same auditory and visual sequences in humans, and an equivalent macaque fMRI experiment is underway. Multi-voxel pattern analysis of the human fMRI data using Representational Similarity Analyses (RSA) investigated brain responses in sensory cortices and perisylvian regions. The results show that, primary visual and auditory cortices respond to sequencing relationships within their respective sensory modalities. However, Brodmann areas 44/45 and the frontal operculum in frontal cortex respond to aspects of the sequence ordering relationships in both modalities. These observations identify the domain-specific sequencing operations in the respective sensory processing streams, and they highlight inferior frontal cortex as a domain-general substrate for sequence processing. The results also provide initial evidence that human sequence learning abilities stem from an evolutionarily conserved capacity for multisensory sequence processing.

Topic Area: Animal Communication

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