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Sci Rep. 2014 Oct 13;4:6590. doi: 10.1038/srep06590.

Basal ganglia function, stuttering, sequencing, and repair in adult songbirds.

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Laboratory of Neurobiology and Physiology of Behaviour, Institute of Animal Biochemistry and Genetics, Slovak Academy of Sciences, Ivanka pri Dunaji, Slovakia.
Freie Universität Berlin, Germany.
Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Department of Neurobiology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC, USA.


A pallial-basal-ganglia-thalamic-pallial loop in songbirds is involved in vocal motor learning. Damage to its basal ganglia part, Area X, in adult zebra finches has been noted to have no strong effects on song and its function is unclear. Here we report that neurotoxic damage to adult Area X induced changes in singing tempo and global syllable sequencing in all animals, and considerably increased syllable repetition in birds whose song motifs ended with minor repetitions before lesioning. This stuttering-like behavior started at one month, and improved over six months. Unexpectedly, the lesioned region showed considerable recovery, including immigration of newly generated or repaired neurons that became active during singing. The timing of the recovery and stuttering suggest that immature recovering activity of the circuit might be associated with stuttering. These findings indicate that even after juvenile learning is complete, the adult striatum plays a role in higher level organization of learned vocalizations.

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