The long-term goal of the Program Project is to understand learning of complex, human functions at the level of distributed networkd of neurons in intact brains. Each project addressess this goal in behavioral systems that are organized entirely or largely in the mammalian cerebral neocortex or its avian homologue, the nuclei of the forebrain. The five projects use different behavioral systems but ask the same questions. I) Does repetitive training induce learning in the spatio-temporal responses that allow an ensemble for forebrain neurons to represent complex temporal information? II) What is the nature of learning in the neural mechanisms that transform sensory information into motor commands? III) Is repetition-induced learning useful as a method to rehabilitate individuals with motor disorders such as focal dystonia? Project 1 develops a paradigm for studying motor learning in smooth pursuit eye movements and surveys the cortical and subcortical pursuit system to find sites of learning. Project 2 studies the innate ability of neurons in the hatchling songbird forebrain to recognize the bird's species-specific song, and then uses selective tutoring to determine how the neural representation of song changes during learning. Project 3 evaluates how repetitive use of a body part, simulating repetitive-use syndromes, alters the cortical representations of sensory inputs and motor outputs from that body part. Project 4 asks how complex sounds like consonants and vowels are represented in the cortex and whether those representations are modified when the animal learns a sound discrimination task.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
Research Program Projects (P01)
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Study Section
Neurological Disorders Program Project Review A Committee (NSPA)
Program Officer
Broman, Sarah H
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University of California San Francisco
Schools of Medicine
San Francisco
United States
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Zhou, Xiaoming; Merzenich, Michael M (2012) Environmental noise exposure degrades normal listening processes. Nat Commun 3:843
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Zhou, Xiaoming; Merzenich, Michael M (2009) Developmentally degraded cortical temporal processing restored by training. Nat Neurosci 12:26-8
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