Lecture focuses on animal calls and their meaning

News around Campus

Lecture focuses on animal calls and their meaning

Published on November 19 2009

Stefan Brudzynski’s work on the biological meaning behind animal vocal signals will be the subject of an upcoming public lecture at Brock University.

Brudzynski, a professor in the Department of Psychology, will speak on “Discovering secrets of animal brains by listening to their calls” on Tuesday, Nov. 24. The lecture is part of his Distinguished Research and Creative Activity Award.

While all mammals are known to be vocal, their vocalizations differ greatly. It is intriguing to observe these calls in rats that use high sound frequencies inaudible to the human ear, Brudzynski notes. Results of experimental studies on rodents show that these animals have at least two distinct types of their vocalizations, which are indicative of different states and conveying different messages to other rats. These states are driven by activity of different brain structures and brain systems, so emitted calls express animal affective states and may be used not only as different signals to other animals, but also indicators of the specific brain activity.

The research has implications for understanding the development of human vocal communication from infant cries to adult expression of emotion. This research also adds to our understanding of the evolutionary development of emotional colouration of speech in humans and non-verbal communication in mammals.

The event takes place Tuesday, Nov. 24 from 4 to 6 p.m. in Pond Inlet, and includes a wine and cheese reception following the lecture.

Created in 1994, the Award for Distinguished Research and Creative Activity recognizes the outstanding research achievements, contributions toward the training of future researchers and consistency in scholarly or creative performance. In compliance with the terms of the award, each recipient agrees to present a lecture to the University community.

Brudzynski’s lecture occurs ahead of the publication of a comprehensive collection of articles on the subject, Handbook of Mammalian Vocalization. Brudzynski wrote the introduction and has the credit as the project’s overall editor.



Stefan Brudzynski is one of the world's foremost researchers on the brain mechanisms of vocalization in rodents. He has a long and productive record in neuroscience, going back nearly 30 years in Canada, having come to Ontario for post-doctoral training in 1982. His research is the careful exposition of how the brain is structured, how it came to be structured the way it is, and why this was likely given the evolutionary demands on mammals through their phylogeny.

He has published 62 articles in some of the best journals in his field, and he has 67 produced papers in refereed conference proceedings. The quality of his work is further indicated by major research grants totaling more than $1 million that he has received over the past 20 years, as well as the large number of invited lectures he has given around the world.

Professor Brudzynski is universally praised by his students as a professor who cares a great deal about his research and is able to transmit this enthusiasm to his students. This was recognized when he received the University's Award for Distinguished Teaching in 2001.