Early onset of deafening-induced song deterioration and differential requirements of the pallial-basal ganglia vocal pathway.

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Similar to humans, songbirds rely on auditory feedback to maintain the acoustic and sequence structure of adult learned vocalizations. When songbirds are deafened, the learned features of song, such as syllable structure and sequencing, eventually deteriorate. However, the time-course and initial phases of song deterioration have not been well studied, particularly in the most commonly studied songbird, the zebra finch. Here, we observed previously uncharacterized subtle but significant changes to learned song within a few days following deafening. Syllable structure became detectably noisier and silent intervals between song motifs increased. Although song motif sequences remained stable at 2 weeks, as previously reported, pronounced changes occurred in longer stretches of song bout sequences. These included deletions of syllables between song motifs, changes in the frequency at which specific chunks of song were produced and stuttering for birds that had some repetitions of syllables before deafening. Changes in syllable structure and song bout sequence occurred at different rates, indicating different mechanisms for their deterioration. The changes in syllable structure required an intact lateral part but not the medial part of the pallial-basal ganglia vocal pathway, whereas changes in the song bout sequence did not require lateral or medial portions of the pathway. These findings indicate that deafening-induced song changes in zebra finches can be detected rapidly after deafening, that acoustic and sequence changes can occur independently, and that, within this time period, the pallial-basal ganglia vocal pathway controls the acoustic structure changes but not the song bout sequence changes.





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Horita, Haruhito, Kazuhiro Wada and Erich D Jarvis (2008). Early onset of deafening-induced song deterioration and differential requirements of the pallial-basal ganglia vocal pathway. Eur J Neurosci, 28(12). pp. 2519–2532. 10.1111/j.1460-9568.2008.06535.x Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/11261.

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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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