Journal of Comparative Physiology A

, Volume 202, Issue 3, pp 163–183 | Cite as

Hierarchical emergence of sequence sensitivity in the songbird auditory forebrain

  • Satoko Ono
  • Kazuo Okanoya
  • Yoshimasa SekiEmail author
Original Paper


Bengalese finches (Lonchura striata var. domestica) generate more complex sequences in their songs than zebra finches. Because of this, we chose this species to explore the signal processing of sound sequence in the primary auditory forebrain area, field L, and in a secondary area, the caudomedial nidopallium (NCM). We simultaneously recorded activity from multiple single units in urethane-anesthetized birds. We successfully replicated the results of a previous study in awake zebra finches examining stimulus-specific habituation of NCM neurons to conspecific songs. Then, we used an oddball paradigm and compared the neural response to deviant sounds that were presented infrequently, with the response to standard sounds, which were presented frequently. In a single sound oddball task, two different song elements were assigned for the deviant and standard sounds. The response bias to deviant elements was larger in NCM than in field L. In a triplet sequence oddball task, two triplet sequences containing elements ABC and ACB were assigned as the deviant and standard. Only neurons in NCM that displayed broad-shaped spike waveforms had sensitivity to the difference in element order. Our results suggest the hierarchical processing of complex sound sequences in the songbird auditory forebrain.


Field L Habituation NCM caudomedial nidopallium Oddball task Songbird 



Bird’s own song


Caudolateral mesopallium


Caudomedial mesopallium


Deviant stimulus


Inter-onset interval


Inter-spike interval


Caudomedial nidopallium




Standard stimulus



We thank Dr. Jun Nishikawa for his instruction in the surgical techniques and the use of the data acquisition software. We also thank Dr. Ryosuke Tachibana for his helpful comments in the data analysis and discussion. This work was supported by Grant in Aids from MEXT #23240033, #25590202 and #26240019 to Kazuo Okanoya, and JST ERATO Okanoya Emotional Information Project. The experimental procedures and housing conditions were approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee at the University of Tokyo.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (PDF 550 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Life Sciences, Graduate School of Arts and SciencesThe University of TokyoTokyoJapan
  2. 2.ERATO, Okanoya Emotional Information Project, Japan Science and Technology AgencySaitamaJapan
  3. 3.Emotional Information Joint Research LaboratoryRIKEN BSISaitamaJapan
  4. 4.Faculty of LettersAichi UniversityAichiJapan

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