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Petkov, Chris

Petkov, Chris


Chris Petrov. Ph.D. from University of California, Davis, USA. Professor of Comparative Neuropsychology at Newcastle University, UK.

Theme Group Fellow (1 April 2017 – 30 June 2017)

Artificial Grammar Learning and the Monkey, Ape and Human Brain

Project Description

Many animals, nonhuman primates included, are not thought to be able to combine their vocalizations into structured sequences, unlike humans, songbirds and certain select species. Yet, it remains possible that animals with relatively rudimentary vocal production abilities are nonetheless able to learn to recognize various types of rule-based sequences generated by Artificial Grammars (AGs). Thus, an important empirical question is the extent of different animals’ rule-based sequence learning abilities. Pursuing this could clarify both what makes humans unique and which are evolutionarily conserved abilities, the latter of which would aid developing animal models to study language precursors at the neuronal level. During this fellowship, I would like to achieve three aims with this cohesive group of fellows. Aim 1 is to evaluate the empirical literature on AGL to critically assess the phylogenetic behavioral evidence available. Aim 2 is to develop novel testable AG learning paradigms for comparative study (e.g., non-adjacent relationships and hierarchical structures of various sorts) that would push the envelope of our knowledge about different species’ rule-based learning abilities. Aim 3 is to synthesize the existing literature on the human neurobiology of language and cognition alongside the available neurobiological findings in nonhuman animals to generate predictions on neurobiological substrates supporting different levels of rule-based sequence learning. The potential outcome is an influential synthesis of the literature with a prospective guide in shaping the next generation of comparative studies providing us with a more complete understanding of language-related abilities and the brain regions and neuronal processes that support them.

Selected Publications

Petkov CI, Kikuchi Y, Milne A, Mishkin M, Rauschecker JP & Logothetis NK. (2015) Different forms of hierarchical effective connectivity in primate fronto-temporal pathways. Nature Communications 6, DOI: 10.1038/ncomms7000. Open Access.

Perrodin C, Kayser C, Logothetis NK & Petkov, CI. (2014) Natural asynchronies in audio-visual communication signals regulate neuronal multisensory interactions in voice-sensitive cortex. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences – USA. 112(1): 273-278. Open Access.

Wilson, B., Slater, H., Kikuchi, Y., Milne, A., Marslen-Wilson, W., Smith, K. & Petkov, CI. (2013) Auditory artificial grammar learning in marmoset and macaque monkeys. Journal of Neuroscience 33(48): 18825-35. Open Access publication.

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