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Real-time magnetic resonance imaging reveals distinct vocal tract configurations during spontaneous and volitional laughter

Belyk, Michel; McGettigan, Carolyn; (2022) Real-time magnetic resonance imaging reveals distinct vocal tract configurations during spontaneous and volitional laughter. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences Green open access

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Abstract

A substantial body of acoustic and behavioural evidence points to the existence of two broad categories of laughter in humans: spontaneous laughter that is emotionally genuine and somewhat involuntary, and volitional laughter that is produced on demand. In this study, we tested the hypothesis these are also physiologically distinct vocalisations, by measuring and comparing them using real-time MRI (rtMRI) of the vocal tract. Following Ruch & Ekman (2001), we further predicted that spontaneous laughter should be relatively less speech-like (i.e. less articulate) than volitional laughter. We collected rtMRI data from five adult human participants during spontaneous laughter, volitional laughter, and spoken vowels. We report distinguishable vocal tract shapes during the vocalic portions of these three vocalisation types, where volitional laughs were intermediate between spontaneous laughs and vowels. Inspection of local features within the vocal tract across the different vocalisation types offers some additional support for Ruch and Ekman’s (2001) predictions. We discuss our findings in light of a dual-pathway hypothesis for the neural control of human volitional and spontaneous vocal behaviours, identifying tongue shape and velum lowering as potential biomarkers of spontaneous laughter to be investigated in future research.

Type: Article
Title: Real-time magnetic resonance imaging reveals distinct vocal tract configurations during spontaneous and volitional laughter
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Publisher version: https://royalsocietypublishing.org/journal/rstb
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Speech, Hearing and Phonetic Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10143812
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