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J Neurophysiol. 2007 Jun;97(6):4271-83. Epub 2006 Dec 20.

Singing-related activity of identified HVC neurons in the zebra finch.

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McGovern Institute and Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA.


High vocal center (HVC) is part of the premotor pathway necessary for song production and is also a primary source of input to the anterior forebrain pathway (AFP), a basal ganglia-related circuit essential for vocal learning. We have examined the activity of identified HVC neurons of zebra finches during singing. Antidromic activation was used to identify three classes of HVC cells: neurons projecting to the premotor nucleus RA, neurons projecting to area X in the AFP, and putative HVC interneurons. HVC interneurons are active throughout the song and display tonic patterns of activity. Projection neurons exhibit highly phasic stereotyped firing patterns. X-projecting (HVC((X))) neurons burst zero to four times per motif, whereas RA-projecting neurons burst extremely sparsely--at most once per motif. The bursts of HVC projection neurons are tightly locked to the song and typically have a jitter of <1 ms. Population activity of interneurons, but not projection neurons, was significantly correlated with syllable patterns. Consistent with the idea that HVC codes for the temporal order in the song rather than for sound, the vocal dynamics and neural dynamics in HVC occur on different and uncorrelated time scales. We test whether HVC((X)) neurons are auditory sensitive during singing. We recorded the activity of these neurons in juvenile birds during singing and found that firing patterns of these neurons are not altered by distorted auditory feedback, which is known to disrupt learning or to cause degradation of song already learned.

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