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The roles of social context and sleep replay for vocal learning in a songbird

Applicant Hahnloser Richard
Number 127024
Funding scheme Project funding
Research institution Institut für Neuroinformatik Universität Zürich Irchel und ETH Zürich
Institution of higher education University of Zurich - ZH
Main discipline Neurophysiology and Brain Research
Start/End 01.10.2010 - 30.09.2014
Approved amount 463'572.00
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All Disciplines (2)

Discipline
Neurophysiology and Brain Research
Information Technology

Keywords (11)

Social cognition; Neurophysiology; Songbird; Instrumentation; Behavior; Electrical stimulation; vocal learning; dreaming; social; family; zebra finch

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
Lay summary
Many complex learning behaviors such as speech learning are strongly influenced by factors including social context and sleep. Although many influences on learning are known today, they have mostly been studied in artificial rather than natural settings and are currently supported only by correlative but not by causal evidence. Our work aims at bridging this gap by studying vocal development in the songbird and its dependence on social interactions with conspecific birds and on neural replay of behavioral sequences during sleep. The songbird is a vocal learner in which the brain mechanisms involved in sleep replay are well known. We now want to make use of his knowledge and test for a causal relationship between sleep sequences and vocal development. Such a causal relationship has been widely hypothesized but has never been tested experimentally. We plan to implant stimulation electrodes into the brain area that generates sleep-related spike bursts and the effects of electrical perturbations on vocal learning. Comparisons will be made with birds that are similarly stimulated, but at daytime rather than during sleep. We hope this research will provide one of the first demonstrations that off-line neural activity during sleep has key roles for procedural learning.The social interactions during vocal learning and their influences have not been studied extensively yet. In a different set of experiments we will study the social factors that are beneficial or detrimental to vocal learning. It is known that birds with siblings produce less accurate copies of tutor song than birds without siblings, an effect known as a fraternal inhibition. However, the precise factors of this inhibition and the role of the parents in mediating this inhibition are currently not known. To study such effects of social context and many more, we will design and build a bird monitoring system in which several microphones and a video camera jointly operate to record all songs, the locations of the singers, and the locations of the other birds of a family living inside the same cage. This bird-monitoring system is a difficult instrumentation task because jointly tutored birds sing similar songs and often they sing at the same time. Hence, we will apply sophisticated machine-learning techniques to solve this blind-source separation problem. Our bird monitoring system will be fully automated
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
Lesions of a higher auditory brain area during a sensorimotor period do not impair birdsong learning
Canopoli Alessandro, Zai Anja, Hahnloser Richard (2016), Lesions of a higher auditory brain area during a sensorimotor period do not impair birdsong learning, in Matters, 1.
A higher sensory brain region is involved in reversing reinforcement-induced vocal changes in a songbird.
Canopoli Alessandro, Herbst Joshua A, Hahnloser Richard H R (2014), A higher sensory brain region is involved in reversing reinforcement-induced vocal changes in a songbird., in The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 34(20), 7018-26.
Dynamic alignment models for neural coding.
Kollmorgen Sepp, Hahnloser Richard H R (2014), Dynamic alignment models for neural coding., in PLoS computational biology, 10(3), 1003508-1003508.
Evidence for a causal inverse model in an avian cortico-basal ganglia circuit.
Giret Nicolas, Kornfeld Joergen, Ganguli Surya, Hahnloser Richard H R (2014), Evidence for a causal inverse model in an avian cortico-basal ganglia circuit., in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 111(16), 6063-8.
Reconstruction of vocal interactions in a group of small songbirds.
Anisimov Victor N, Herbst Joshua A, Abramchuk Andrei N, Latanov Alexander V, Hahnloser Richard H R, Vyssotski Alexei L (2014), Reconstruction of vocal interactions in a group of small songbirds., in Nature methods, 11(11), 1135-7.
A Hebbian learning rule gives rise to mirror neurons and links them to control theoretic inverse models.
Hanuschkin A, Ganguli S, Hahnloser R H R (2013), A Hebbian learning rule gives rise to mirror neurons and links them to control theoretic inverse models., in Frontiers in neural circuits, 7, 106-106.
Vocal learning with inverse models
Hahnloser Richard, Ganguli Surya, Vocal learning with inverse models, in Rodrigo Quian Quiroga (ed.), CRC Press, USA.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
City University of New York United States of America (North America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Neuroscience 2016 Poster Formation of hierarchical network of vocalizations in songbird groups 12.11.2016 San Diego, United States of America Hahnloser Richard;
Neuroscience 2015 Poster Maintenance and premotor control of temporal properties of birdsong 17.10.2015 Chicago, United States of America Hahnloser Richard;
Neuroscience 2015 Poster Rapid learning of auditory discrimination via observation and its limited generalization 17.10.2015 Chicago, United States of America Hahnloser Richard;
Neuroscience 2015 Poster Ultradian dynamics of electrical brain activity in a zebra finch during sleep 17.10.2015 Chicago, United States of America Stepien Anna; Hahnloser Richard;
XXV meeting of the International Bioacoustics Council (IBAC) Poster Syllable-specific rules in the microstructure of birdsong 07.09.2015 Murnau, Germany Canopoli Alessandro; Hahnloser Richard; Stepien Anna;
2015 Birdsong Meeting Talk given at a conference The birdsong performance error function 27.04.2015 Capo Caccia, Italy Hahnloser Richard;
Neuroscience 2014 Poster A procedure for song similarity calculation using sub-space angles 15.11.2014 Washington, United States of America Hahnloser Richard; Herbst Joshua;
Kick-off Symposium of the Priority Program 1665 - Resolving and manipulating neuronal networks in the mammalian brain - from correlative to causal analysis Individual talk New approaches to vocal communication and learning in birds 06.03.2014 Hamburg, Germany Hahnloser Richard;
Neuroscience 2013 Poster Hierarchical network of vocalizations in songbird groups 09.11.2013 San Diego, United States of America Hahnloser Richard;
Neuroscience 2013 Poster Syllable-specific rules in the microstructure of birdsong 09.11.2013 San Diego, United States of America Canopoli Alessandro; Stepien Anna; Hahnloser Richard;
Neuroscience 2012 Poster Investigating the neural representation of motor variability 13.10.2012 New Orleans, United States of America Giret Nicolas;
Neuroscience 2012 Poster Delayed mirrored activity in the Zebra finch song system 13.10.2012 New Orleans, United States of America Giret Nicolas; Hahnloser Richard;
Neuroscience 2012 Poster NIf premotor neuronal activity in zebra finches is locally isometric to vocalizations 13.10.2012 New Orleans, United States of America Herbst Joshua; Hahnloser Richard;
Neuroscience 2011 Poster Involvement of auditory association areas in zebra finch song development and maintenance 12.11.2011 Washington, United States of America Herbst Joshua; Hahnloser Richard; Canopoli Alessandro;
Neuroscience 2011 Poster The role of spontaneous neural activity during sleep for developmental learning in a songbird 12.11.2011 Washington, United States of America Herbst Joshua; Hahnloser Richard;


Self-organised

Title Date Place
2015 Birdsong Meeting 27.04.2015 Capo Caccia, Italy
Music in Neuroscience 18.03.2012 Ascona (Switzerland), Switzerland

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
102956 Computational models and technology for investigating time and sequences in the brain 01.04.2004 SNSF Professorships
182638 The roles of vocal communication in pair formation and cultural learning in songbirds 01.01.2019 Project funding
156976 Vocal tuning and sequencing in songbirds and in humans 01.02.2015 Project funding

Abstract

Many complex learning behaviors such as speech learning are strongly influenced by factors including social context and sleep. Although many influences are known today, they have mostly been studied in artificial rather than natural settings and are currently supported only by correlative but not by causal evidence. Our work aims at bridging this gap by studying vocal development in the songbird and its dependence on social interactions with conspecific birds and on neural replay of behavioral sequences during sleep. The songbird is a vocal learner in which the brain mechanisms involved in sleep replay are well known. During sleep, premotor neurons of the vocal apparatus in zebra finches engage in bursting patterns that are reminiscent of their patterns generated during song production. In the past, we have performed extensive studies on the generation of such sleep-burst sequences in large song-control networks. We now want to make use of his knowledge and test for a causal relationship between sleep sequences and vocal development. Such a causal relationship has been widely hypothesized but has never been tested experimentally. We plan to implant stimu-lation electrodes into the brain area that generates sleep sequences and perturb downstream sleep bursts to study their effects on vocal changes. Comparisons will be made with birds that are similarly stimulated, but at daytime rather than during sleep. We hope this research will provide one of the first demonstrations that off-line neural activity during sleep has key roles for procedural learning.The social interactions during vocal learning and their influences have not been studied exten-sively yet. In a different set of experiments we will study the social factors that are beneficial or detrimental to vocal learning. It is known that birds with siblings produce less accurate copies of tutor song than birds without siblings, an effect known as a fraternal inhibition. However, the precise factors of this inhibition and the role of the parents in mediating this inhibition are currently not known. To study such effects of social context and many more, we will design and build a bird monitoring system in which several microphones and a video camera jointly operate to record all songs, the locations of the singers, and the locations of the other birds of a family living inside the same cage. This bird-monitoring system is a difficult instrumentation task because jointly tutored birds sing similar songs and often they sing at the same time. Hence, we will apply sophisticated machine-learning techniques to solve this blind-source separation problem. Our bird monitoring system will be fully automated and minimally rely on human input, thus facilitating behavioral experiments and high-throughput data acquisition. We are convinced that this tool will be useful to a large community of birdsong and neuroethology researchers worldwide, because one of the most successful strategies for understanding brain mechanisms is to study them in natural settings rather than in artificial ones. In future experiments beyond this grant application, we will make use of this bird-monitoring system also in electrophysiological experiments, to study brain mechanisms in a natural social context.The broader relevance of our work extends from songbirds to human social sciences and physi-ology, because effects of sibling number and parental interactions influence speech learning also in children. And, the functions of sleep and dreams remain deeply mysterious and any new insights even in animal models will be highly valuable.
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