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J Neurosci. 2002 Sep 1;22(17):7774-87.

Vocal memory and learning in adult Bengalese Finches with regenerated hair cells.

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  • 1Virginia Merrill Bloedel Hearing Research Center, Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195, USA.

Abstract

Critical learning periods are common in vertebrate development. In many birds, song learning is limited by a critical period; juveniles copy songs from adult birds by forming memories of those songs during a restricted developmental period and then using auditory feedback to practice their own vocalizations. Adult songs are stable over time regardless of exposure to other birds, but auditory feedback is required for the maintenance of stable adult song. A technique was developed to reversibly deafen Bengalese Finches by destruction and regeneration of inner ear auditory hair cells. With this approach, we asked two questions about the plasticity of song information stored in the adult brain. First, do adult birds store memories or "templates" of their songs that exist independent of auditory reinforcement? Such memories could be used to control vocal output by acting as fixed models of song to which ongoing vocalizations are matched. Second, can adult song learning, which does not normally occur in this species, be induced by removing and then restoring hearing? Studying changes in adult song behavior during hair cell loss and regeneration revealed two findings: (1) adult birds store memories or templates of their songs that exist independent of auditory input and can be used to restore normal vocal behavior when hearing is restored; (2) under experimental circumstances, adult birds can be induced to acquire song material from other birds. Results suggest that, in Bengalese Finches, the degree of behavioral and neural plasticity in juvenile and adult birds may be less distinct that previously thought.

PMID:
12196601
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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