When trying to be heard over noise, humans and animals raise their voices. It’s a split-second feat, from ear to brain to vocalization, and Johns Hopkins University researchers are the first to measure just how fast it happens in bats: 30 milliseconds. That’s just a tenth of the time it takes to blink an eye, and a record for audio-vocal response.
Because this action, known as the Lombard effect, happens so very fast, the researchers were also able to solve a longtime mystery regarding the neural mechanism behind it. In a research paper published online this week by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the research team concludes it must be a fundamental temporal reflex rather than, as previously thought, a deeper cognitive behavior that would take more processing time.
The findings, which shed light on the underpinnings of human speech control, also reveal how species as diverse as fish, frogs, animals, and people share the ability to be heard over the fray.
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