Inhibition protects acquired song segments during vocal learning in zebra finches

Journal: Science

Published: 2016-01-15

DOI: 10.1126/science.aad3023

Affiliations: 4

Authors: 4

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Research Highlight

How avian Romeos learn to charm chicks

© Diane Bell/EyeEm/Getty

© Diane Bell/EyeEm/Getty

Listening to and copying their fathers’ crooning not only teaches juvenile zebra finches courtship songs, it hardwires them into their brains, according to a study published in Science.

A US-team, including a researcher from the City University of New York’s Hunter College, studied how listening to a ‘tutor’s’ song caused a spiking of nerve cells in juveniles’ premotor cortex, an area of the brain associated with imitation and learning. After the birds have mastered the song, a special type of nerve cells called inhibitory interneurons help make the tune a permanent memory by blocking outside influence.

“These inhibitory cells are really smart — once you’ve gotten a part of the song down, the area gets locked,” Michael Long, the senior author of the paper told The New York Times.

The team is planning to look more closely at how these interneurons work, hoping that the insights gleaned could eventually be useful for relearning complex behaviours after injury or stroke.

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  1. Science 351, 267–271 (2016). doi: 10.1126/science.aad3023
Institutions Share
NYU Langone Health, United States of America (USA) 0.50
New York University (NYU), United States of America (USA) 0.25
Hunter College of City University of New York (CUNY Hunter College), United States of America (USA) 0.25