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J Neurosci. 2006 Sep 20;26(38):9619-28.

Real-time contributions of auditory feedback to avian vocal motor control.

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Keck Center for Integrative Neuroscience, Department of Physiology, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California 94143-0444, USA.


Songbirds and humans both rely critically on hearing for learning and maintaining accurate vocalizations. Evidence strongly indicates that auditory feedback contributes in real time to human speech, but similar contributions of feedback to birdsong remain unclear. Here, we assessed real-time influences of auditory feedback on Bengalese finch song using a computerized system to detect targeted syllables as they were being sung and to disrupt feedback transiently at short and precisely controlled latencies. Altered feedback elicited changes within tens of milliseconds to both syllable sequencing and timing in ongoing song. These vocal disruptions were larger when feedback was altered at segments of song with variable sequence transitions than at stereotyped sequences. As in humans, these effects depended on the feedback delay relative to ongoing song, with the most disruptive delays approximating the average syllable duration. These results extend the parallels between speech and birdsong with respect to a moment-by-moment reliance on auditory feedback. Moreover, they demonstrate that song premotor circuitry is sensitive to auditory feedback during singing and suggest that feedback may contribute in real time to the control and calibration of song.

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