Different mechanisms are responsible for dishabituation of electrophysiological auditory responses to a change in acoustic identity than to a change in stimulus location.

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Repeated exposure to an auditory stimulus leads to habituation of the electrophysiological and immediate-early-gene (IEG) expression response in the auditory system. A novel auditory stimulus reinstates this response in a form of dishabituation. This has been interpreted as the start of new memory formation for this novel stimulus. Changes in the location of an otherwise identical auditory stimulus can also dishabituate the IEG expression response. This has been interpreted as an integration of stimulus identity and stimulus location into a single auditory object, encoded in the firing patterns of the auditory system. In this study, we further tested this hypothesis. Using chronic multi-electrode arrays to record multi-unit activity from the auditory system of awake and behaving zebra finches, we found that habituation occurs to repeated exposure to the same song and dishabituation with a novel song, similar to that described in head-fixed, restrained animals. A large proportion of recording sites also showed dishabituation when the same auditory stimulus was moved to a novel location. However, when the song was randomly moved among 8 interleaved locations, habituation occurred independently of the continuous changes in location. In contrast, when 8 different auditory stimuli were interleaved all from the same location, a separate habituation occurred to each stimulus. This result suggests that neuronal memories of the acoustic identity and spatial location are different, and that allocentric location of a stimulus is not encoded as part of the memory for an auditory object, while its acoustic properties are. We speculate that, instead, the dishabituation that occurs with a change from a stable location of a sound is due to the unexpectedness of the location change, and might be due to different underlying mechanisms than the dishabituation and separate habituations to different acoustic stimuli.





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Smulders, Tom V, and Erich D Jarvis (2013). Different mechanisms are responsible for dishabituation of electrophysiological auditory responses to a change in acoustic identity than to a change in stimulus location. Neurobiol Learn Mem, 106. pp. 163–176. 10.1016/j.nlm.2013.08.010 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/11201.

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Erich David Jarvis

Adjunct Professor in the Deptartment of Neurobiology

Dr. Jarvis' laboratory studies the neurobiology of vocal communication. Emphasis is placed on the molecular pathways involved in the perception and production of learned vocalizations. They use an integrative approach that combines behavioral, anatomical, electrophysiological and molecular biological techniques. The main animal model used is songbirds, one of the few vertebrate groups that evolved the ability to learn vocalizations. The generality of the discoveries is tested in other vocal learning orders, such as parrots and hummingbirds, as well as non-vocal learners, such as pigeons and non-human primates. Some of the questions require performing behavior/molecular biology experiments in freely ranging animals, such as hummingbirds in tropical forest of Brazil. Recent results show that in songbirds, parrots and hummingbirds, perception and production of song are accompanied by anatomically distinct patterns of gene expression. All three groups were found to exhibit vocally-activated gene expression in exactly 7 forebrain nuclei that are very similar to each other. These structures for vocal learning and production are thought to have evolved independently within the past 70 million years, since they are absent from interrelated non-vocal learning orders. One structure, Area X of the basal ganglia's striatum in songbirds, shows large differential gene activation depending on the social context in which the bird sings. These differences may reflect a semantic content of song, perhaps similar to human language.

The overall goal of the research is to advance knowledge of the neural mechanisms for vocal learning and basic mechanisms of brain function. These goals are further achieved by combined collaborative efforts with the laboratories of Drs. Mooney and Nowicki at Duke University, who study respectively behavior and electrophysiological aspects of songbird vocal communication.

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