For decades, the gentle sound of our feline friends’ purrs has intrigued and fascinated scientists around the world. Thanks to an international team led by Christian Herbst from the University of Vienna, we may be closer than ever to unraveling this mystery.
A revolution in understanding cats
Contrary to the common belief that purring results from active muscle contractions, these researchers propose a completely different mechanism. They discovered that “purr pads” or connective tissue cushions embedded in cats’ vocal cords could be the key to this phenomenon.
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Link to the human “Vocal Fry”.
For those of us who are not familiar with vocalizations, it is a rough, low sound we sometimes make when speaking. This low-frequency vibration of our vocal cords is similar to the purring of cats. The “purr pad” appears to allow cats to purr using mechanisms similar to those that normally generate higher-frequency sounds, such as meows.
Pioneering and new research
The team conducted their experiments using the throats of eight deceased domestic cats. By exposing this larynx to warm, moist air, without any muscle or nerve intervention, they were able to produce a purring sound. This suggests that connective tissue may be primarily responsible for this soothing sound.
So why do cats thunder?
The real reason why cats purr is still a matter of debate. Some believe it indicates a state of contentment, while others argue that purring may have therapeutic properties. Whatever the reason, this discovery could open the door to new innovations to improve the health and well-being of cats.
Towards a purring future?
The implications of this research are broad. In addition to shedding light on one of the biggest mysteries in the cat world, this could lead to the development of technologies that mimic the sound of purring. Such devices could be used to calm stressed cats or even to develop new treatments for pain and anxiety in humans.
Although we have made a giant step forward in understanding cat purrs, the world of cats still holds many secrets. As always, science continues to advance, driven by curiosity and the desire to learn more about our four-legged companions.
Source de l'étude : Domestic cat larynges can produce purring frequencies without neural input Author: Christian T. Herbst,Tamara Prigge,Maxime Garcia,Vit Hampala,Riccardo Hofer,Gerald E. Weissengruber,Jan G. Svec,W. Tecumseh Fitch Publication: Current Biology Publisher: Elsevier Date: Available online 3 October 2023 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2023.09.014
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