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Discovery helps to unlock brain's speech-learning mechanism
Date:9/4/2013

urons in young songbirds: ones that were activated only when the birds heard themselves singing, and others that were activated only when the birds heard the songs of adult birds that they were trying to imitate.

The two sets of neurons allow the songbirds to recognize both their current behavior and a goal behavior that they would like to achieve.

"The process of learning speech requires the brain to compare feedback of current vocal behavior to a memory of target vocal sounds," Achiro said. "The discovery of these two distinct populations of neurons means that this brain region contains separate neural representation of current and goal behaviors. Now, for the first time, we can test how these two neural representations are compared so that correct matches between the two are somehow rewarded."

The next step for scientists will be to learn how the brain rewards correct matches between feedback of current vocal behavior and the goal memory that depicts memorized vocal sounds as songbirds make progress in bringing their current behavior closer to their goal behavior, Bottjer said.


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Contact: Robert Perkins
perkinsr@usc.edu
213-740-9226
University of Southern California
Source:Eurekalert

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