Convergent transcriptional specializations in the brains of humans and song-learning birds.

Abstract

Song-learning birds and humans share independently evolved similarities in brain pathways for vocal learning that are essential for song and speech and are not found in most other species. Comparisons of brain transcriptomes of song-learning birds and humans relative to vocal nonlearners identified convergent gene expression specializations in specific song and speech brain regions of avian vocal learners and humans. The strongest shared profiles relate bird motor and striatal song-learning nuclei, respectively, with human laryngeal motor cortex and parts of the striatum that control speech production and learning. Most of the associated genes function in motor control and brain connectivity. Thus, convergent behavior and neural connectivity for a complex trait are associated with convergent specialized expression of multiple genes.

Department

Description

Provenance

Citation

Published Version (Please cite this version)

10.1126/science.1256846

Publication Info

Pfenning, Andreas R, Erina Hara, Osceola Whitney, Miriam V Rivas, Rui Wang, Petra L Roulhac, Jason T Howard, Morgan Wirthlin, et al. (2014). Convergent transcriptional specializations in the brains of humans and song-learning birds. Science, 346(6215). p. 1256846. 10.1126/science.1256846 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/11149.

This is constructed from limited available data and may be imprecise. To cite this article, please review & use the official citation provided by the journal.

Scholars@Duke

Moseley

Martin Arthur Moseley

Adjunct Professor in the Department of Cell Biology
Thompson

J. Will Thompson

Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Pharmacology & Cancer Biology

Dr. Thompson's research focuses on the development and deployment of proteomics and metabolomics mass spectrometry techniques for the analysis of biological systems. He served as the Assistant Director of the Proteomics and Metabolomics Shared Resource in the Duke School of Medicine from 2007-2021. He currently maintains collaborations in metabolomics and proteomics research at Duke, and develops new tools for chemical analysis as a Principal Scientist at 908 Devices in Carrboro, NC.

Soderblom

Erik James Soderblom

Associate Research Professor of Cell Biology

Director, Proteomics and Metabolomics Core Facility

Hartemink

Alexander J. Hartemink

Professor of Computer Science

Computational biology, machine learning, Bayesian statistics, transcriptional regulation, genomics and epigenomics, graphical models, Bayesian networks, hidden Markov models, systems biology, computational neurobiology, classification, feature selection

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.


Unless otherwise indicated, scholarly articles published by Duke faculty members are made available here with a CC-BY-NC (Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial) license, as enabled by the Duke Open Access Policy. If you wish to use the materials in ways not already permitted under CC-BY-NC, please consult the copyright owner. Other materials are made available here through the author’s grant of a non-exclusive license to make their work openly accessible.