Central control of song in the canary, Serinus canarius. >> citations
Shared developmental and evolutionary origins for neural basis of vocal-acoustic and pectoral-gestural signaling.
Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA. email@example.com
Acoustic signaling behaviors are widespread among bony vertebrates, which include the majority of living fishes and tetrapods. Developmental studies in sound-producing fishes and tetrapods indicate that central pattern generating networks dedicated to vocalization originate from the same caudal hindbrain rhombomere (rh) 8-spinal compartment. Together, the evidence suggests that vocalization and its morphophysiological basis, including mechanisms of vocal-respiratory coupling that are widespread among tetrapods, are ancestral characters for bony vertebrates. Premotor-motor circuitry for pectoral appendages that function in locomotion and acoustic signaling develops in the same rh8-spinal compartment. Hence, vocal and pectoral phenotypes in fishes share both developmental origins and roles in acoustic communication. These findings lead to the proposal that the coupling of more highly derived vocal and pectoral mechanisms among tetrapods, including those adapted for nonvocal acoustic and gestural signaling, originated in fishes. Comparative studies further show that rh8 premotor populations have distinct neurophysiological properties coding for equally distinct behavioral attributes such as call duration. We conclude that neural network innovations in the spatiotemporal patterning of vocal and pectoral mechanisms of social communication, including forelimb gestural signaling, have their evolutionary origins in the caudal hindbrain of fishes.
Front Mol Neurosci. 2012 ;5 :32 22461765
Department of Biology, University of Kentucky, Lexington KY, USA.
Avian behavior and physiology are embedded in time at many levels of biological organization. Biological clock function in birds is critical for sleep/wake cycles, but may also regulate the acquisition of place memory, learning of song from tutors, social integration, and time-compensated navigation. This relationship has two major implications. First, mechanisms of the circadian clock should be linked in some way to the mechanisms of all these behaviors. How is not yet clear, and evidence that the central clock has effects is piecemeal. Second, selection acting on characters that are linked to the circadian clock should influence aspects of the clock mechanism itself. Little evidence exists for this in birds, but there have been few attempts to assess this idea. At its core, the avian circadian clock is a multi-oscillator system comprising the pineal gland, the retinae, and the avian homologs of the suprachiasmatic nuclei, whose mutual interactions ensure coordinated physiological functions, which are in turn synchronized to ambient light cycles (LD) via encephalic, pineal, and retinal photoreceptors. At the molecular level, avian biological clocks comprise a genetic network of "positive elements" clock and bmal1 whose interactions with the "negative elements" period 2 (per2), period 3 (per3), and the cryptochromes form an oscillatory feedback loop that circumnavigates the 24 h of the day. We assess the possibilities for dual integration of the clock with time-dependent cognitive processes. Closer examination of the molecular, physiological, and behavioral elements of the circadian system would place birds at a very interesting fulcrum in the neurobiology of time in learning, memory, and navigation.
PLoS One. 2012 ;7 (2):e32178 22384172
Characterization of synaptically connected nuclei in a potential sensorimotor feedback pathway in the zebra finch song system.
Claremont McKenna College, Claremont, California, United States of America.
Birdsong is a learned behavior that is controlled by a group of identified nuclei, known collectively as the song system. The cortical nucleus HVC (used as a proper name) is a focal point of many investigations as it is necessary for song production, song learning, and receives selective auditory information. HVC receives input from several sources including the cortical area MMAN (medial magnocellular nucleus of the nidopallium). The MMAN to HVC connection is particularly interesting as it provides potential sensorimotor feedback to HVC. To begin to understand the role of this connection, we investigated the physiological relation between MMAN and HVC activity with simultaneous multiunit extracellular recordings from these two nuclei in urethane anesthetized zebra finches. As previously reported, we found similar timing in spontaneous bursts of activity in MMAN and HVC. Like HVC, MMAN responds to auditory playback of the bird's own song (BOS), but had little response to reversed BOS or conspecific song. Stimulation of MMAN resulted in evoked activity in HVC, indicating functional excitation from MMAN to HVC. However, inactivation of MMAN resulted in no consistent change in auditory responses in HVC. Taken together, these results indicate that MMAN provides functional excitatory input to HVC but does not provide significant auditory input to HVC in anesthetized animals. We hypothesize that MMAN may play a role in motor reinforcement or coordination, or may provide modulatory input to the song system about the internal state of the animal as it receives input from the hypothalamus.
Brain Lang. 2012 Jan 25;: 22284300
Departments of Neurology and Otolaryngology, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY, United States.
To understand the neural basis of human speech control, extensive research has been done using a variety of methodologies in a range of experimental models. Nevertheless, several critical questions about learned vocal motor control still remain open. One of them is the mechanism(s) by which neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, modulate speech and song production. In this review, we bring together the two fields of investigations of dopamine action on voice control in humans and songbirds, who share similar behavioral and neural mechanisms for speech and song production. While human studies investigating the role of dopamine in speech control are limited to reports in neurological patients, research on dopaminergic modulation of bird song control has recently expanded our views on how this system might be organized. We discuss the parallels between bird song and human speech from the perspective of dopaminergic control as well as outline important differences between these species.
PLoS One. 2012 ;7 (1):e30202 22279571
Takayoshi Ubuka, Motoko Mukai, Jordan Wolfe, Ryan Beverly, Sarah Clegg, Ariel Wang, Serena Hsia, Molly Li, Jesse S Krause, Takanobu Mizuno, Yujiro Fukuda, Kazuyoshi Tsutsui, George E Bentley, John C Wingfield
Department of Integrative Biology and Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, University of California, Berkeley, California, United States of America. firstname.lastname@example.org
Gonadotropin-inhibitory hormone (GnIH) was originally identified in quail as a hypothalamic neuropeptide inhibitor of pituitary gonadotropin synthesis and release. However, GnIH neuronal fibers do not only terminate in the median eminence to control anterior pituitary function but also extend widely in the brain, suggesting it has multiple roles in the regulation of behavior. To identify the role of GnIH neurons in the regulation of behavior, we investigated the effect of RNA interference (RNAi) of the GnIH gene on the behavior of white-crowned sparrows, a highly social songbird species. Administration of small interfering RNA against GnIH precursor mRNA into the third ventricle of male and female birds reduced resting time, spontaneous production of complex vocalizations, and stimulated brief agonistic vocalizations. GnIH RNAi further enhanced song production of short duration in male birds when they were challenged by playbacks of novel male songs. These behaviors resembled those of breeding birds during territorial defense. The overall results suggest that GnIH gene silencing induces arousal. In addition, the activities of male and female birds were negatively correlated with GnIH mRNA expression in the paraventricular nucleus. Density of GnIH neuronal fibers in the ventral tegmental area was decreased by GnIH RNAi treatment in female birds, and the number of gonadotropin-releasing hormone neurons that received close appositions of GnIH neuronal fiber terminals was negatively correlated with the activity of male birds. In summary, GnIH may decrease arousal level resulting in the inhibition of specific motivated behavior such as in reproductive contexts.
Department of Neurobiology, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina, United States of America. email@example.com
Spoken language and learned song are complex communication behaviors found in only a few species, including humans and three groups of distantly related birds--songbirds, parrots, and hummingbirds. Despite their large phylogenetic distances, these vocal learners show convergent behaviors and associated brain pathways for vocal communication. However, it is not clear whether this behavioral and anatomical convergence is associated with molecular convergence. Here we used oligo microarrays to screen for genes differentially regulated in brain nuclei necessary for producing learned vocalizations relative to adjacent brain areas that control other behaviors in avian vocal learners versus vocal non-learners. A top candidate gene in our screen was a calcium-binding protein, parvalbumin (PV). In situ hybridization verification revealed that PV was expressed significantly higher throughout the song motor pathway, including brainstem vocal motor neurons relative to the surrounding brain regions of all distantly related avian vocal learners. This differential expression was specific to PV and vocal learners, as it was not found in avian vocal non-learners nor for control genes in learners and non-learners. Similar to the vocal learning birds, higher PV up-regulation was found in the brainstem tongue motor neurons used for speech production in humans relative to a non-human primate, macaques. These results suggest repeated convergent evolution of differential PV up-regulation in the brains of vocal learners separated by more than 65-300 million years from a common ancestor and that the specialized behaviors of learned song and speech may require extra calcium buffering and signaling.
Department of Biology, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada, H3A 1B1. firstname.lastname@example.org
Recent experiments in divergent fields of birdsong have revealed that vocal performance is important for reproductive success and under active control by distinct neural circuits. Vocal consistency, the degree to which the spectral properties (e.g. dominant or fundamental frequency) of song elements are produced consistently from rendition to rendition, has been highlighted as a biologically important aspect of vocal performance. Here, we synthesize functional, developmental and mechanistic (neurophysiological) perspectives to generate an integrated understanding of this facet of vocal performance. Behavioral studies in the field and laboratory have found that vocal consistency is affected by social context, season and development, and, moreover, positively correlated with reproductive success. Mechanistic investigations have revealed a contribution of forebrain and basal ganglia circuits and sex steroid hormones to the control of vocal consistency. Across behavioral, developmental and mechanistic studies, a convergent theme regarding the importance of vocal practice in juvenile and adult songbirds emerges, providing a basis for linking these levels of analysis. By understanding vocal consistency at these levels, we gain an appreciation for the various dimensions of song control and plasticity and argue that genes regulating the function of basal ganglia circuits and sex steroid hormones could be sculpted by sexual selection.
Two distinct modes of forebrain circuit dynamics underlie temporal patterning in the vocalizations of young songbirds.
McGovern Institute for Brain Research, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA.
Accurate timing is a critical aspect of motor control, yet the temporal structure of many mature behaviors emerges during learning from highly variable exploratory actions. How does a developing brain acquire the precise control of timing in behavioral sequences? To investigate the development of timing, we analyzed the songs of young juvenile zebra finches. These highly variable vocalizations, akin to human babbling, gradually develop into temporally stereotyped adult songs. We find that the durations of syllables and silences in juvenile singing are formed by a mixture of two distinct modes of timing: a random mode producing broadly distributed durations early in development, and a stereotyped mode underlying the gradual emergence of stereotyped durations. Using lesions, inactivations, and localized brain cooling, we investigated the roles of neural dynamics within two premotor cortical areas in the production of these temporal modes. We find that LMAN (lateral magnocellular nucleus of the nidopallium) is required specifically for the generation of the random mode of timing and that mild cooling of LMAN causes an increase in the durations produced by this mode. On the contrary, HVC (used as a proper name) is required specifically for producing the stereotyped mode of timing, and its cooling causes a slowing of all stereotyped components. These results show that two neural pathways contribute to the timing of juvenile songs and suggest an interesting organization in the forebrain, whereby different brain areas are specialized for the production of distinct forms of neural dynamics.
McGovern Institute for Brain Research, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 77 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02139, USA. email@example.com
Most of our motor skills are not innately programmed, but are learned by a combination of motor exploration and performance evaluation, suggesting that they proceed through a reinforcement learning (RL) mechanism. Songbirds have emerged as a model system to study how a complex behavioral sequence can be learned through an RL-like strategy. Interestingly, like motor sequence learning in mammals, song learning in birds requires a basal ganglia (BG)-thalamocortical loop, suggesting common neural mechanisms. Here, we outline a specific working hypothesis for how BG-forebrain circuits could utilize an internally computed reinforcement signal to direct song learning. Our model includes a number of general concepts borrowed from the mammalian BG literature, including a dopaminergic reward prediction error and dopamine-mediated plasticity at corticostriatal synapses. We also invoke a number of conceptual advances arising from recent observations in the songbird. Specifically, there is evidence for a specialized cortical circuit that adds trial-to-trial variability to stereotyped cortical motor programs, and a role for the BG in "biasing" this variability to improve behavioral performance. This BG-dependent "premotor bias" may in turn guide plasticity in downstream cortical synapses to consolidate recently learned song changes. Given the similarity between mammalian and songbird BG-thalamocortical circuits, our model for the role of the BG in this process may have broader relevance to mammalian BG function.
Brain Res. 2011 Nov 18;1424 :67-101 22015350
The avian subpallium: new insights into structural and functional subdivisions occupying the lateral subpallial wall and their embryological origins.
Department of Poultry Science, Poultry Science Center, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas 72701, USA. firstname.lastname@example.org
The subpallial region of the avian telencephalon contains neural systems whose functions are critical to the survival of individual vertebrates and their species. The subpallial neural structures can be grouped into five major functional systems, namely the dorsal somatomotor basal ganglia; ventral viscerolimbic basal ganglia; subpallial extended amygdala including the central and medial extended amygdala and bed nuclei of the stria terminalis; basal telencephalic cholinergic and non-cholinergic corticopetal systems; and septum. The paper provides an overview of the major developmental, neuroanatomical and functional characteristics of the first four of these neural systems, all of which belong to the lateral telencephalic wall. The review particularly focuses on new findings that have emerged since the identity, extent and terminology for the regions were considered by the Avian Brain Nomenclature Forum. New terminology is introduced as appropriate based on the new findings. The paper also addresses regional similarities and differences between birds and mammals, and notes areas where gaps in knowledge occur for birds.
Breathing and vocal control: the respiratory system as both a driver and a target of telencephalic vocal motor circuits in songbirds.
Department of Biology, Neuroscience Graduate Group, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6018, USA. email@example.com
The production of vocalizations is intimately linked to the respiratory system. Despite our understanding of neural circuits that generate normal respiratory patterns, very little is understood regarding how these pontomedullary circuits become engaged during vocal production. Songbirds offer a potentially powerful model system for addressing this relationship. Songs dramatically alter the respiratory pattern in ways that are often highly predictable, and songbirds have a specialized telencephalic vocal motor circuit that provides massive innervation to a brainstem respiratory network that shares many similarities with its mammalian counterpart. In this review, we highlight interactions between the song motor circuit and the respiratory system, describing how both systems are likely to interact to produce the complex respiratory patterns that are observed during vocalization. We also discuss how the respiratory system, through its bilateral bottom-up projections to thalamus, might play a key role in sending precisely timed signals that synchronize premotor activity in both hemispheres.
Graduate Program in Neurobiology and Behavior, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA.
Synaptic plasticity has been hypothesized to underlie learning and memory. Understanding of how such plasticity might produce motor learning is limited, in part because of the paucity of model systems with a tractable learned behavior under control of a discrete neural circuit. Songbirds possess both of these traits, thereby providing an excellent model for studying vertebrate motor learning. We report unique evidence of long-term depression (LTD) in the juvenile songbird premotor robust nucleus of the arcopallium (RA). LTD induction at RA recurrent collateral synapses requires NMDA receptors, postsynaptic depolarization, and postsynaptic calcium, and can be reversed by high-frequency stimulation. In adult birds, which have exited the critical period for sensorimotor learning and cannot modify their song, we were no longer able to induce LTD at RA collateral synapses. Furthermore, testosterone-induced premature maturation of song in juveniles abolishes LTD. LTD in nucleus RA therefore makes an excellent candidate mechanism to mediate song learning during development and is well-suited to provide insight into other forms of vertebrate motor learning.
Birds as a model to study adult neurogenesis: bridging evolutionary, comparative and neuroethological approaches.
Department of Natural and Life Sciences, The Open University of Israel, PO Box 808, Ra'anana 43107, Israel. firstname.lastname@example.org
During the last few decades, evidence has demonstrated that adult neurogenesis is a well-preserved feature throughout the animal kingdom. In birds, ongoing neuronal addition occurs rather broadly, to a number of brain regions. This review describes adult avian neurogenesis and neuronal recruitment, discusses factors that regulate these processes, and touches upon the question of their genetic control. Several attributes make birds an extremely advantageous model to study neurogenesis. First, song learning exhibits seasonal variation that is associated with seasonal variation in neuronal turnover in some song control brain nuclei, which seems to be regulated via adult neurogenesis. Second, food-caching birds naturally use memory-dependent behavior in learning the locations of thousands of food caches scattered over their home ranges. In comparison with other birds, food-caching species have relatively enlarged hippocampi with more neurons and intense neurogenesis, which appears to be related to spatial learning. Finally, migratory behavior and naturally occurring social systems in birds also provide opportunities to investigate neurogenesis. This diversity of naturally occurring memory-based behaviors, combined with the fact that birds can be studied both in the wild and in the laboratory, make them ideal for investigation of neural processes underlying learning. This can be done by using various approaches, from evolutionary and comparative to neuroethological and molecular. Finally, we connect the avian arena to a broader view by providing a brief comparative and evolutionary overview of adult neurogenesis and by discussing the possible functional role of the new neurons. We conclude by indicating future directions and possible medical applications.
Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA. email@example.com
Behavioral specializations are frequently associated with expansions of the brain regions controlling them. This principle of proper mass spans sensory, motor, and cognitive abilities and has been observed in a wide variety of vertebrate species. Yet, it is unknown if this concept extrapolates to entire neural pathways or how selection on a behavioral capacity might otherwise shape circuit structure. We investigate these questions by comparing the songs and neuroanatomy of 49 species from 17 families of songbirds, which vary immensely in the number of unique song components they produce and possess a conserved neural network dedicated to this behavior. We find that syllable repertoire size is strongly related to the degree of song motor pathway convergence. Repertoire size is more accurately predicted by the number of neurons in higher motor areas relative to that in their downstream targets than by the overall number of neurons in the song motor pathway. Additionally, the convergence values along serial premotor and primary motor projections account for distinct portions of the behavioral variation. These findings suggest that selection on song has independently shaped different components of this hierarchical pathway, and they elucidate how changes in pathway structure could have underlain elaborations of this learned motor behavior.
Department of Neuroscience, Graduate Program in Neuroscience, Center for Neurobehavioral Development, University of Minnesota Academic Health Center, 6-145 Jackson Hall, 321 Church St. SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA. firstname.lastname@example.org
Behaviors are generated from complex interactions among networks of neurons. Single-unit ensemble recording has been used to identify multiple neurons in functioning networks. These recordings have provided insight into interactions among neurons in local and distributed circuits. Recorded units in these ensembles have been classed based on waveform type, firing pattern, and physical location. To identify individual projection neurons in a cortical network, we have paired tetrode recording with antidromic stimulation. We developed techniques that enable antidromic identification of single units and study of functional interactions between these neurons and other circuit elements. These methods have been developed in the zebra finch and should be applicable, with potential modifications that we discuss here, to any neural circuit with defined subpopulations based on projection target. This methodology will enable elucidation of the functional roles of single identified neurons in complex vertebrate circuits.
Evo-devo and brain scaling: candidate developmental mechanisms for variation and constancy in vertebrate brain evolution.
Department of Psychology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA. email@example.com
Biologists have long been interested in both the regularities and the deviations in the relationship between brain, development, ecology, and behavior between taxa. We first examine some basic information about the observed ranges of fundamental changes in developmental parameters (i.e. neurogenesis timing, cell cycle rates, and gene expression patterns) between taxa. Next, we review what is known about the relative importance of different kinds of developmental mechanisms in producing brain change, focusing on mechanisms of segmentation, local and general features of neurogenesis, and cell cycle kinetics. We suggest that a limited set of developmental alterations of the vertebrate nervous system typically occur and that each kind of developmental change may entail unique anatomical, functional, and behavioral consequences for the organism. Thus, neuroecologists who posit a direct mapping of brain size to behavior should consider that not any change in brain anatomy is possible.
McGovern Institute for Brain Research, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA. fee@MIT.EDU
Where are the 'prime movers' that control behavior? Which circuits in the brain control the order in which individual motor gestures of a learned behavior are generated, and the speed at which they progress? Here we describe two techniques recently applied to localizing and characterizing the circuitry underlying the generation of vocal sequences in the songbird. The first utilizes small, localized, temperature changes in the brain to perturb the speed of neural dynamics. The second utilizes intracellular manipulation of membrane potential in the freely behaving animal to perturb the dynamics within a single neuron. Both of these techniques are broadly applicable in behaving animals to test hypotheses about the biophysical and circuit dynamics that allow neural circuits to march from one state to the next.
McGovern Institute for Brain Research, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
How do animals with learned vocalizations coordinate vocal production with respiration? Songbirds such as the zebra finch learn their songs, beginning with highly variable babbling vocalizations known as subsong. After several weeks of practice, zebra finches are able to produce a precisely timed pattern of syllables and silences, precisely coordinated with expiratory and inspiratory pulses (Franz M, Goller F. J Neurobiol 51: 129-141, 2002). While respiration in adult song is well described, relatively little is known about respiratory patterns in subsong or about the processes by which respiratory and vocal patterns become coordinated. To address these questions, we recorded thoracic air sac pressure in juvenile zebra finches prior to the appearance of any consistent temporal or acoustic structure in their songs. We found that subsong contains brief inspiratory pulses (50 ms) alternating with longer pulses of sustained expiratory pressure (50-500 ms). In striking contrast to adult song, expiratory pulses often contained multiple (0-8) variably timed syllables separated by expiratory gaps and were only partially vocalized. During development, expiratory pulses became shorter and more stereotyped in duration with shorter and fewer nonvocalized parts. These developmental changes eventually resulted in the production of a single syllable per expiratory pulse and a single inspiratory pulse filling each gap, forming a coordinated sequence similar to that of adult song. To examine the role of forebrain song-control nuclei in the development of respiratory patterns, we performed pressure recordings before and after lesions of nucleus HVC (proper name) and found that this manipulation reverses the developmental trends in measures of the respiratory pattern.
Using digital images of the zebra finch song system as a tool to teach organizational effects of steroid hormones: a free downloadable module.
William Grisham, Natalie A Schottler, Lisa M Beck McCauley, Anh P Pham, Maureen L Ruiz, Michelle C Fong, Xinran Cui
Department of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA. firstname.lastname@example.org
Zebra finch song behavior is sexually dimorphic: males sing and females do not. The neural system underlying this behavior is sexually dimorphic, and this sex difference is easy to quantify. During development, the zebra finch song system can be altered by steroid hormones, specifically estradiol, which actually masculinizes it. Because of the ease of quantification and experimental manipulation, the zebra finch song system has great potential for use in undergraduate labs. Unfortunately, the underlying costs prohibit use of this system in undergraduate labs. Further, the time required to perform a developmental study renders such undertakings unrealistic within a single academic term. We have overcome these barriers by creating digital tools, including an image library of song nuclei from zebra finch brains. Students using this library replicate and extend a published experiment examining the dose of estradiol required to masculinize the female zebra finch brain. We have used this library for several terms, and students not only obtain significant experimental results but also make gains in understanding content, experimental controls, and inferential statistics (analysis of variance and post hoc tests). We have provided free access to these digital tools at the following website: http://mdcune.psych.ucla.edu/modules/birdsong.
Bio-Imaging Lab, University of Antwerp, B-2020 Antwerp, Belgium. email@example.com
Songbirds are well known for their ability to learn their vocalizations by imitating conspecific adults. This uncommon skill has led to many studies examining the behavioral and neurobiological processes involved in vocal learning. Canaries display a variable, seasonally dependent, vocal behavior throughout their lives. This trait makes this bird species particularly valuable to study the functional relationship between the continued plasticity in the singing behavior and alterations in the anatomy and physiology of the brain. In order to optimally interpret these types of studies, a detailed understanding of the brain anatomy is essential. Because traditional 2-dimensional brain atlases are limited in the information they can provide about the anatomy of the brain, here we present a 3-dimensional MRI-based atlas of the canary brain. Using multiple imaging protocols we were able to maximize the number of detectable brain regions, including most of the areas involved in song perception, learning, and production. The brain atlas can readily be used to determine the stereotactic location of delineated brain areas at any desirable head angle. Alternatively the brain data can be used to determine the ideal orientation of the brain for stereotactic injections, electrophysiological recordings, and brain sectioning. The 3-dimensional canary brain atlas presented here is freely available and is easily adaptable to support many types of neurobiological studies, including anatomical, electrophysiological, histological, explant, and tracer studies.