Song Learning
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Anindita Das ◽  
Jesse H. Goldberg

Skill learning requires motor output to be evaluated against internal performance benchmarks. In songbirds, ventral tegmental area (VTA) dopamine neurons (DA) signal performance errors important for learning, but it remains unclear which brain regions project to VTA and how these inputs may contribute to DA error signaling. Here we find that the songbird subthalamic nucleus (STN) projects to VTA and that STN micro-stimulation can excite VTA neurons. We also discover that STN receives inputs from motor cortical, auditory cortical and ventral pallidal brain regions previously implicated in song evaluation. In the first neural recordings from songbird STN, we discover that the activity of most STN neurons is associated with body movements and not singing, but a small fraction of neurons exhibits precise song timing and performance error signals. Our results place the STN in a pathway important for song learning, but not song production, and expand the territories of songbird brain potentially associated with song learning.

2021 ◽  
Vol 15 ◽  
Lei Xiao ◽  
Todd F. Roberts

Basal ganglia (BG) circuits integrate sensory and motor-related information from the cortex, thalamus, and midbrain to guide learning and production of motor sequences. Birdsong, like speech, is comprised of precisely sequenced vocal elements. Learning song sequences during development relies on Area X, a vocalization related region in the medial striatum of the songbird BG. Area X receives inputs from cortical-like pallial song circuits and midbrain dopaminergic circuits and sends projections to the thalamus. It has recently been shown that thalamic circuits also send substantial projections back to Area X. Here, we outline a gated-reinforcement learning model for how Area X may use signals conveyed by thalamostriatal inputs to direct song learning. Integrating conceptual advances from recent mammalian and songbird literature, we hypothesize that thalamostriatal pathways convey signals linked to song syllable onsets and offsets and influence striatal circuit plasticity via regulation of cholinergic interneurons (ChIs). We suggest that syllable sequence associated vocal-motor information from the thalamus drive precisely timed pauses in ChIs activity in Area X. When integrated with concurrent corticostriatal and dopaminergic input, this circuit helps regulate plasticity on medium spiny neurons (MSNs) and the learning of syllable sequences. We discuss new approaches that can be applied to test core ideas of this model and how associated insights may provide a framework for understanding the function of BG circuits in learning motor sequences.

2021 ◽  
Anindita Das ◽  
Jesse H. Goldberg

AbstractSkill learning requires motor output to be evaluated against internal performance benchmarks. In songbirds, ventral tegmental area (VTA) dopamine neurons (DA) signal performance errors important for learning, but it remains unclear which brain regions project VTA and how these inputs may implement the sensorimotor comparisons necessary for error computation. Here we find that the songbird subthalamic nucleus (STN) projects to VTA and that STN microstimulation can excite VTA neurons. We also discover that STN receives inputs from auditory cortical and ventral pallidal brain regions previously implicated in song evaluation. In the first neural recordings from songbird STN, we discover that the activity of most STN neurons is associated with body movements and not singing, but a small fraction of neurons exhibits precise song timing and performance error signals consistent with performance evaluation. Together our results implicate the STN-VTA projection as an evolutionarily conserved pathway important for motor learning and expand the territories of songbird brain associated with song learning.New & NoteworthySongbird subthalamic (STN) neurons exhibit song-timing and performance error signals and are interconnected with auditory pallium, ventral pallidum and ventral tegmental area, three areas important for song learning.

2021 ◽  
Judith M. Varkevisser ◽  
Ralph Simon ◽  
Ezequiel Mendoza ◽  
Martin How ◽  
Idse van Hijlkema ◽  

AbstractBird song and human speech are learned early in life and for both cases engagement with live social tutors generally leads to better learning outcomes than passive audio-only exposure. Real-world tutor–tutee relations are normally not uni- but multimodal and observations suggest that visual cues related to sound production might enhance vocal learning. We tested this hypothesis by pairing appropriate, colour-realistic, high frame-rate videos of a singing adult male zebra finch tutor with song playbacks and presenting these stimuli to juvenile zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata). Juveniles exposed to song playbacks combined with video presentation of a singing bird approached the stimulus more often and spent more time close to it than juveniles exposed to audio playback only or audio playback combined with pixelated and time-reversed videos. However, higher engagement with the realistic audio–visual stimuli was not predictive of better song learning. Thus, although multimodality increased stimulus engagement and biologically relevant video content was more salient than colour and movement equivalent videos, the higher engagement with the realistic audio–visual stimuli did not lead to enhanced vocal learning. Whether the lack of three-dimensionality of a video tutor and/or the lack of meaningful social interaction make them less suitable for facilitating song learning than audio–visual exposure to a live tutor remains to be tested.

2021 ◽  
Vol 6 (1) ◽  
Donald Samuel Slamet Santosa ◽  
Mikhael Christupar

This research departs from the problem of the poor quality of online learning carried out by teachers since the Covid-19 pandemic. This causes low students activeness and learning outcomes. The purpose of this study was to increase students’ activeness and learning outcomes in the classroom through the media of songs. Furthermore, this research was to increase students’ learning outcomes. The research method used was Classroom Action Research (CAR) with the model used by Kemmis & Tagart. The object of the research was students of class 3B with a total of 21 students at Saint John Christian Elementary School in Indonesian Language subject. Data collection using an assessment rubric to measure student activity and a test to measure student learning outcomes. Data were analyzed descriptively. The results obtained on student activeness were that students who were categorized as very active and active reached 90% of students in the second cycle. On student learning outcomes, the results obtained are students who get complete results on student learning outcomes in the pre-cycle are 50% of students, in cycle 1 there are 89% of students and in cycle 2 are 91%. From these results, it has exceeded the target of the target, which should be 90% of students complete their learning outcomes. The conclusion is song learning media is able to increase students’ activeness and learning outcomes. This research is suggested for the teachers to use song learning media to increase student activeness and student learning outcomes.

2021 ◽  
Vol 288 (1953) ◽  
pp. 20210610
Juan F. Döppler ◽  
Manon Peltier ◽  
Ana Amador ◽  
Franz Goller ◽  
Gabriel B. Mindlin

Activation of forebrain circuitry during sleep has been variably characterized as ‘pre- or replay’ and has been linked to memory consolidation. The evolutionary origins of this mechanism, however, are unknown. Sleep activation of the sensorimotor pathways of learned birdsong is a particularly useful model system because the muscles controlling the vocal organ are activated, revealing syringeal activity patterns for direct comparison with those of daytime vocal activity. Here, we show that suboscine birds, which develop their species-typical songs innately without the elaborate forebrain–thalamic circuitry of the vocal learning taxa, also engage in replay during sleep. In two tyrannid species, the characteristic syringeal activation patterns of the song could also be identified during sleep. Similar to song-learning oscines, the burst structure was more variable during sleep than daytime song production. In kiskadees ( Pitangus sulphuratus ), a second vocalization, which is part of a multi-modal display, was also replayed during sleep along with one component of the visual display. These data show unambiguously that variable ‘replay’ of stereotyped vocal motor programmes is not restricted to programmes confined within forebrain circuitry. The proposed effects on vocal motor programme maintenance are, therefore, building on a pre-existing neural mechanism that predates the evolution of learned vocal motor behaviour.

2021 ◽  
Carlos A. Rodriguez-Saltos ◽  
Aditya Bhise ◽  
Prasanna Karur ◽  
Ramsha Nabihah Khan ◽  
Sumin Lee ◽  

In songbirds, learning to sing is a highly social process that likely involves social reward. Here, we hypothesized that the degree to which a juvenile songbird learns a song depends on the degree to which it finds that song rewarding to hear during vocal development. We tested this hypothesis by measuring song preferences in young birds during song learning and then analyzing their adult songs. Song preferences were measured in an operant key-pressing assay. Juvenile male zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) had access to two keys, each of which was associated with a higher likelihood of playing the song of their father or that of another familiar adult ("neighbor"). To minimize the effects of exposure on learning, we implemented a reinforcement schedule that allowed us to detect preferences while balancing exposure to each song. On average, the juveniles significantly preferred the father's song early during song learning, before they were themselves singing. At around post-hatch day 60, their preference shifted to the neighbor's song. At the end of the song learning period, we recorded the juveniles' songs and compared them to the father's and the neighbor's song. All of the birds copied father's song. The accuracy with which the father's song was imitated was positively correlated with the peak strength of the preference for the father's song during the sensitive period. Our results show that preference for a social stimulus, in this case a vocalization, predicted social learning during development.

2021 ◽  
Vol 22 (10) ◽  
pp. 5397
Livia Beccacece ◽  
Paolo Abondio ◽  
Elisabetta Cilli ◽  
Donatella Restani ◽  
Donata Luiselli

Music is an exclusive feature of humankind. It can be considered as a form of universal communication, only partly comparable to the vocalizations of songbirds. Many trends of research in this field try to address music origins, as well as the genetic bases of musicality. On one hand, several hypotheses have been made on the evolution of music and its role, but there is still debate, and comparative studies suggest a gradual evolution of some abilities underlying musicality in primates. On the other hand, genome-wide studies highlight several genes associated with musical aptitude, confirming a genetic basis for different musical skills which humans show. Moreover, some genes associated with musicality are involved also in singing and song learning in songbirds, suggesting a likely evolutionary convergence between humans and songbirds. This comprehensive review aims at presenting the concept of music as a sociocultural manifestation within the current debate about its biocultural origin and evolutionary function, in the context of the most recent discoveries related to the cross-species genetics of musical production and perception.

Yining Chen ◽  
Jon T. Sakata

Sensory learning during critical periods in development has lasting effects on behavior. Neuromodulators like dopamine and norepinephrine (NE) have been implicated in various forms of sensory learning, but little is known about their contribution to sensory learning during critical periods. Songbirds like the zebra finch communicate with each other using vocal signals (e.g., songs) that are learned during a critical period in development, and the first crucial step in song learning is memorizing the sound of an adult conspecific's (tutor's) song. Here we analyzed the extent to which NE modulates the auditory learning of a tutor's song and the fidelity of song imitation. Specifically, we paired infusions of NE or vehicle into the caudomedial nidopallium (NCM) with brief epochs of song tutoring. We analyzed the effect of NE in juvenile zebra finches that had or had not previously been exposed to song. Regardless of previous exposure to song, juveniles that received NE infusions into NCM during song tutoring produced songs that were more acoustically similar to the tutor song and that incorporated more elements of the tutor song than juveniles with control infusions. These data support the notion that NE can regulate the formation of sensory memories that shape the development of vocal behaviors that are used throughout an organism's life.

Jolien Diddens ◽  
Louis Coussement ◽  
Carolina Frankl-Vilches ◽  
Gaurav Majumdar ◽  
Sandra Steyaert ◽  

Song learning in zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) is a prototypical example of a complex learned behavior, yet knowledge of the underlying molecular processes is limited. Therefore, we characterized transcriptomic (RNA-sequencing) and epigenomic (RRBS, reduced representation bisulfite sequencing; immunofluorescence) dynamics in matched zebra finch telencephalon samples of both sexes from 1 day post hatching (1 dph) to adulthood, spanning the critical period for song learning (20 and 65 dph). We identified extensive transcriptional neurodevelopmental changes during postnatal telencephalon development. DNA methylation was very low, yet increased over time, particularly in song control nuclei. Only a small fraction of the massive differential expression in the developing zebra finch telencephalon could be explained by differential CpG and CpH DNA methylation. However, a strong association between DNA methylation and age-dependent gene expression was found for various transcription factors (i.e., OTX2, AR, and FOS) involved in neurodevelopment. Incomplete dosage compensation, independent of DNA methylation, was found to be largely responsible for sexually dimorphic gene expression, with dosage compensation increasing throughout life. In conclusion, our results indicate that DNA methylation regulates neurodevelopmental gene expression dynamics through steering transcription factor activity, but does not explain sexually dimorphic gene expression patterns in zebra finch telencephalon.

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