The Song Circuit as a Model of Basal Ganglia Function

  • Arthur Leblois
  • David J. PerkelEmail author
Part of the Springer Handbook of Auditory Research book series (SHAR, volume 71)


Songbirds possess a discrete basal ganglia (BG)-thalamocortical circuit dedicated to song learning and plasticity, which makes them a particularly valuable model for studying the function of basal ganglia in sensorimotor learning. As the basal ganglia are highly conserved across vertebrates, understanding gained in songbirds will generalize to other vertebrate taxa, including humans. Current knowledge about the similarities and differences in the BG circuit in birds and mammals is reviewed at the biochemical, anatomical, and physiological levels to highlight the possible parallels that may be drawn between species and also to reveal the limitations of these parallels. Building on these comparisons, the current hypotheses concerning BG function in mammals and birds are examined in light of current evidence collected in songbirds. Finally, suggestions are made for future experimental and theoretical investigations of BG function that could be conducted in songbirds.


Area X Dopamine Reinforcement learning Songbird Striatum Trial-and-error VTA Ventral tegmental area Vocal learning 


Compliance with Ethics Requirements

Arthur Leblois declares that he has no conflict of interest.

David Perkel declares that he has no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut des Maladies Neurodégénératives, CNRS, UMR 5293Université de BordeauxBordeauxFrance
  2. 2.Departments of Biology and OtolaryngologyUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA

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