The focus of this proposed research is developmental vocal learning, using the songbird as a model. Both humans and zebra finches acquire their vocal repertoire during early life by imitating adult conspecifics. This process has three prominent similarities in the two species: Vocal learning occurs during a sensitive period of development, during this period it relies on auditory feedback, and the vocal learning is facilitated by the presence of a mode of highly variable vocalizations, called babbling. In juvenile songbirds, distinct brain areas are dedicated to babbling, and these areas drive vocal exploration. In this application we propose to examine how vocal exploration guides changes in the songs produced, and how auditory feedback can be used to allow "self-improvement" of vocal patterns. Furthermore, we anticipate that understanding how the different layers of song structure develop might allow us to teach adult birds new songs, thereby overcoming the age constraints that normally prevent vocal learning in adult birds. To this end, we have designed new imitation tasks in which we guide the bird's imitation from one model song to another and determine the parameters of particular trajectories of imitation, recording and analyzing every vocalization the bird makes over the period of learning.

Public Health Relevance

The proposed research will examine the role of babbling in developmental vocal learning using songbirds as a model of early speech development. We will try to achieve vocal learning in the zebra finch after the sensitive period for vocal learning is over. Our findings might lead to improved treatment of speech disorders induced by stroke, or as seen in developmental apraxia.

Agency
National Institute of Health (NIH)
Institute
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
Type
Research Project (R01)
Project #
7R01DC004722-14
Application #
8540479
Study Section
Biobehavioral Regulation, Learning and Ethology Study Section (BRLE)
Program Officer
Shekim, Lana O
Project Start
2001-01-01
Project End
2014-06-30
Budget Start
2012-07-03
Budget End
2013-06-30
Support Year
14
Fiscal Year
2012
Total Cost
$249,258
Indirect Cost
$86,344
Name
Hunter College
Department
Psychology
Type
Schools of Arts and Sciences
DUNS #
620127915
City
New York
State
NY
Country
United States
Zip Code
10065
Benichov, Jonathan I; Benezra, Sam E; Vallentin, Daniela et al. (2016) The Forebrain Song System Mediates Predictive Call Timing in Female and Male Zebra Finches. Curr Biol 26:309-18
Sasahara, Kazutoshi; Tchernichovski, Ofer; Takahasi, Miki et al. (2015) A rhythm landscape approach to the developmental dynamics of birdsong. J R Soc Interface 12:
Tchernichovski, Ofer; Marcus, Gary (2014) Vocal learning beyond imitation: mechanisms of adaptive vocal development in songbirds and human infants. Curr Opin Neurobiol 28:42-7
Rothenberg, David; Roeske, Tina C; Voss, Henning U et al. (2014) Investigation of musicality in birdsong. Hear Res 308:71-83
Lipkind, Dina; Marcus, Gary F; Bemis, Douglas K et al. (2013) Stepwise acquisition of vocal combinatorial capacity in songbirds and human infants. Nature 498:104-8
Ravbar, Primoz; Lipkind, Dina; Parra, Lucas C et al. (2012) Vocal Exploration Is Locally Regulated during Song Learning. J Neurosci 32:3422-32
Lipkind, Dina; Tchernichovski, Ofer (2011) Quantification of developmental birdsong learning from the subsyllabic scale to cultural evolution. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 108 Suppl 3:15572-9
Benjamini, Yoav; Fonio, Ehud; Galili, Tal et al. (2011) Quantifying the buildup in extent and complexity of free exploration in mice. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 108 Suppl 3:15580-7
Maul, Kristen K; Voss, Henning U; Parra, Lucas C et al. (2010) The development of stimulus-specific auditory responses requires song exposure in male but not female zebra finches. Dev Neurobiol 70:28-40
Feher, Olga; Wang, Haibin; Saar, Sigal et al. (2009) De novo establishment of wild-type song culture in the zebra finch. Nature 459:564-8

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