Songbirds and the revised avian brain nomenclature.

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2004-06

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Abstract

It has become increasingly clear that the standard nomenclature for many telencephalic and related brainstem structures of the avian brain is based on flawed once-held assumptions of homology to mammalian brain structures, greatly hindering functional comparisons between avian and mammalian brains. This has become especially problematic for those researchers studying the neurobiology of birdsong, the largest single group within the avian neuroscience community. To deal with the many communication problems this has caused among researchers specializing in different vertebrate classes, the Avian Brain Nomenclature Forum, held at Duke University from July 18-20, 2002, set out to develop a new terminology for the avian telencephalon and some allied brainstem cell groups. In one major step, the erroneous conception that the avian telencephalon consists mainly of a hypertrophied basal ganglia has been purged from the telencephalic terminology, and the actual parts of the basal ganglia and its brainstem afferent cell groups have been given new names to reflect their now-evident homologies. The telencephalic regions that were incorrectly named to reflect presumed homology to mammalian basal ganglia have been renamed as parts of the pallium. The prefixes used for the new names for the pallial subdivisions have retained most established abbreviations, in an effort to maintain continuity with the pre-existing nomenclature. Here we present a brief synopsis of the inaccuracies in the old nomenclature, a summary of the nomenclature changes, and details of changes for specific songbird vocal and auditory nuclei. We believe this new terminology will promote more accurate understanding of the broader neurobiological implications of song control mechanisms and facilitate the productive exchange of information between researchers studying avian and mammalian systems.

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10.1196/annals.1298.013

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Reiner, Anton, David J Perkel, Claudio V Mello and Erich D Jarvis (2004). Songbirds and the revised avian brain nomenclature. Ann N Y Acad Sci, 1016. pp. 77–108. 10.1196/annals.1298.013 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/11231.

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Jarvis

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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