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J Neurosci. 2008 Oct 29;28(44):11378-90. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3254-08.2008.

Online contributions of auditory feedback to neural activity in avian song control circuitry.

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


Birdsong, like human speech, relies critically on auditory feedback to provide information about the quality of vocalizations. Although the importance of auditory feedback to vocal learning is well established, whether and how feedback signals influence vocal premotor circuitry has remained obscure. Previous studies in singing birds have not detected changes to vocal premotor activity after perturbations of auditory feedback, leading to the hypothesis that contributions of feedback to vocal plasticity might rely on"offline" processing. Here, we recorded single and multiunit activity in the premotor nucleus HVC (proper name) of singing Bengalese finches in response to feedback perturbations that are known to drive plastic changes in song. We found that transient feedback perturbation caused reliable decreases in HVC activity at short latencies (20-80 ms). Similar changes to HVC activity occurred in awake, nonsinging finches when the bird's own song was played back with auditory perturbations that simulated those experienced by singing birds. These data indicate that neurons in avian vocal premotor circuitry are rapidly influenced by perturbations of auditory feedback and support the possibility that feedback information in HVC contributes "online" to the production and plasticity of vocalizations.

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