The goal of our proposed research is to understand the mechanisms involved in the generation of complex sounds, which can be found in the songs of many birds, and to unveil the role of the peripheral system in this process. As an initial step, the physiological parameters (electromyograms of syringeal muscles, tracheal and bronchial airflow data) will be described for the full range of acoustic characteristics in the songs of three species, zebra finch, brown-headed cowbird and European starling. Based on these data, models of sound generation in the avian vocal organ, the syrinx, will be developed and experimentally tested in order to elucidate the physical processes underlying this acoustic versatility. Following this integrated approach, the focus will be on nontrivial acoustic features, which are present in the songs of the selected species. Electromyographic recordings of syringeal muscles in these birds will reveal the degree to which neural instructions can account for the generation of complex sounds. We will test the hypotheses that complex sounds arise from acoustic interaction between the two sound sources of the syrinx and from feedback pressure onto labial vibration by a combination of modeling and experimental tests. The proposed research is a comprehensive integrative approach to illuminate the peripheral physical mechanisms of birdsong production. The results will inform about the degree to which the peripheral system can give rise to complex acoustic behavior without parallel complexity in the neural control. This research will provide valuable insight into the link between neural control, peripheral interactions and learned vocal behavior in birds and, therefore, explore issues that are also of significance for our understanding of human speech production and motor control. ? ?

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
Research Project (R01)
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Motor Function, Speech and Rehabilitation Study Section (MFSR)
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Shekim, Lana O
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University of Utah
Schools of Arts and Sciences
Salt Lake City
United States
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Bush, Alan; Döppler, Juan F; Goller, Franz et al. (2018) Syringeal EMGs and synthetic stimuli reveal a switch-like activation of the songbird's vocal motor program. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 115:8436-8441
Garcia, Sarah M; Kopuchian, Cecilia; Mindlin, Gabriel B et al. (2017) Evolution of Vocal Diversity through Morphological Adaptation without Vocal Learning or Complex Neural Control. Curr Biol 27:2677-2683.e3
Amador, Ana; Boari, Santiago; Mindlin, Gabriel B (2017) From perception to action in songbird production: dynamics of a whole loop. Curr Opin Syst Biol 3:30-35
Alonso, Rodrigo Gogui; Amador, Ana; Mindlin, Gabriel B (2016) An integrated model for motor control of song in Serinus canaria. J Physiol Paris 110:127-139
Alonso, R Gogui; Kopuchian, Cecilia; Amador, Ana et al. (2016) Difference between the vocalizations of two sister species of pigeons explained in dynamical terms. J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol 202:361-70
Schmidt, Marc F; Goller, Franz (2016) Breathtaking Songs: Coordinating the Neural Circuits for Breathing and Singing. Physiology (Bethesda) 31:442-451
Riede, Tobias; Goller, Franz (2014) Morphological basis for the evolution of acoustic diversity in oscine songbirds. Proc Biol Sci 281:20132306
Riede, Tobias (2014) Rat ultrasonic vocalization shows features of a modular behavior. J Neurosci 34:6874-8
Crespo, José G; Vickers, Neil J; Goller, Franz (2014) Male moths optimally balance take-off thoracic temperature and warm-up duration to reach a pheromone source quickly. Anim Behav 98:79-85
Alonso, Rodrigo; Goller, Franz; Mindlin, Gabriel B (2014) Motor control of sound frequency in birdsong involves the interaction between air sac pressure and labial tension. Phys Rev E Stat Nonlin Soft Matter Phys 89:032706

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