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A role for descending auditory cortical projections in songbird vocal learning

  1. Yael Mandelblat-Cerf  Is a corresponding author
  2. Liora Las
  3. Natalia Denisenko
  4. Michale Fee
  1. McGovern Institute for Brain Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, United States
Research Article
  • Cited 39
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Cite this article as: eLife 2014;3:e02152 doi: 10.7554/eLife.02152

Abstract

Many learned motor behaviors are acquired by comparing ongoing behavior with an internal representation of correct performance, rather than using an explicit external reward. For example, juvenile songbirds learn to sing by comparing their song with the memory of a tutor song. At present, the brain regions subserving song evaluation are not known. Here we report several findings suggesting that song evaluation involves an avian 'cortical' area previously shown to project to the dopaminergic midbrain and other downstream targets. We find that this ventral portion of the intermediate arcopallium (AIV) receives inputs from auditory cortical areas, and that lesions of AIV result in significant deficits in vocal learning. Additionally, AIV neurons exhibit fast responses to disruptive auditory feedback presented during singing, but not during nonsinging periods. Our findings suggest that auditory cortical areas may guide learning by transmitting song evaluation signals to the dopaminergic midbrain and/or other subcortical targets.

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Yael Mandelblat-Cerf

    McGovern Institute for Brain Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, United States
    For correspondence
    ycerf@bidmc.harvard.edu
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  2. Liora Las

    McGovern Institute for Brain Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  3. Natalia Denisenko

    McGovern Institute for Brain Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  4. Michale Fee

    McGovern Institute for Brain Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.

Ethics

Animal experimentation: This study was performed in strict accordance with the recommendations in the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals of the National Institutes of Health, were reviewed and approved by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Committee on Animal Care (IACUC). Permit Number: 0712-071-15. Every effort was made to minimize suffering.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Ronald L Calabrese, Emory University, United States

Publication history

  1. Received: December 27, 2013
  2. Accepted: June 12, 2014
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: June 16, 2014 (version 1)
  4. Version of Record published: July 29, 2014 (version 2)

Copyright

© 2014, Mandelblat-Cerf et al.

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.

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