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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2004 Jun;1016:282-302.

Neural systems for individual song recognition in adult birds.

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Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy, University of Chicago, 1027 E. 57th Street, Chicago, IL 60637, USA.


The songbird auditory system is an excellent model for neuroethological studies of the mechanisms that govern the perception and cognition of natural stimuli (i.e., song), and the translation of corresponding representations into natural behaviors. One common songbird behavior is the learned recognition of individual conspecific songs. This chapter summarizes the research effort to identify the brain regions and mechanisms mediating individual song recognition in European starlings, a species of songbird. The results of laboratory behavioral studies are reviewed, which show that when adult starlings learn to recognize other individual's songs, they do so by memorizing large sets of song elements, called motifs. Recent data from single neurons in the caudal medial portion of the mesopallium are then reviewed, showing that song recognition learning leads to explicit representation of acoustic features that correspond closely to specific motifs, but only to motifs in the songs that birds have learned to recognize. This suggests that the strength and tuning of high-level auditory object representations, of the sort that presumably underlie many forms of vocal communication, are shaped by each animal's unique experience.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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