A bird's eye view: top down intracellular analyses of auditory selectivity for learned vocalizations
The "song system" refers to a group of interconnected brain nuclei necessary for the utterance of learned song and for the generation of vocal plasticity important to both song learning and adult song maintenance. Although song learning and, in some species, song maintenance depend on auditory feedback, how audition influences vocalization remains unknown. One attractive idea is that auditory signals propagate directly to those telencephalic nuclei implicated in song patterning, providing a convenient substrate for sensorimotor integration. Consistent with this idea, auditory neurons highly selective for the bird's own song have been detected in telencephalic song nuclei, and lesions of these structures can impair song perception as well as song production. This review discusses evidence for an auditory-perceptual role of the song system, the anatomical pathways by which auditory information enters the song system, the synaptic events underlying highly selective action potential responses to learned song, and the possible roles such activity could play in song learning and maintenance.
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