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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2004 Jun;1016:61-76.

The avian song system in comparative perspective.

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Department of Biology, University of Washington Medical Center, Box 356515, Seattle, WA 98195-6515, USA.


The song system of oscine birds has become a versatile model system that is used to study diverse problems in neurobiology. Because the song system is often studied with the intention of applying the results to mammalian systems, it is important to place song system brain nuclei in a broader context and to understand the relationships between these avian structures and regions of the mammalian brain. This task has been impeded by the distinctiveness of the song system and the vast apparent differences between the forebrains of birds and mammals. Fortunately, accumulating data on the development, histochemistry, and anatomical organization of avian and mammalian brains has begun to shed light on this issue. We now know that the forebrains of birds and mammals are more alike than they first appeared, even though many questions remain unanswered. Furthermore, the song system is not as singular as it seemed-it has much in common with other neural systems in birds and mammals. These data provide a firmer foundation for extrapolating knowledge of the song system to mammalian systems and suggest how the song system might have evolved.

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