Coen Elemans

University of Southern Denmark.

Vocal neuromechanics: Embodied motor control of the animal voice

Abstract: Communication by sound, or vocal communication, is the fastest, most accurate, and information-rich modality and essential to vertebrate survival and speciation. How the developing body and brain interact to produce vocal signals critically depends on the biophysical mechanisms that vertebrates employ to produce sounds. Over the last ten years, my lab has studied and elucidated sound production mechanisms across the vocal vertebrates. Next to remarkable adaptations, we have also shown that the myoelastic-aerodynamic theory for human sound production underlies sound generation in many vertebrates including birds, primates, bats, and most recently also toothed and baleen whales. This is crucial groundwork for defining and quantifying the parameters that modulate vocal signals to causally link motor control to sound in major animal model systems. 

Coen Elemans’s research group strives to build a causal model of voice motor control for vocal vertebrates. They are pioneering an integrative, high-tech experimental approach combining comparative laboratory and computational model studies.  He developed several experimental setups and sensor technologies that lead to unprecedented observations and quantification in studying voice and muscle physiology - from isolated cells and organs to freely behaving animals, and publications in the highest-ranking interdisciplinarity journals (e.g. Nature, Science, PNAS). Coen has received several international awards, e.g. the Bolk award, MBL Grass Fellow and BioMed Central Research Award. He is director of the international PhD summer school in Bioacoustics and head of the Sound, Communication and Behavior Group at SDU.