Temporal precision and temporal drift in brain and behavior of zebra finch song

Neuron. 2001 Dec 6;32(5):899-910. doi: 10.1016/s0896-6273(01)00524-4.


In the zebra finch forebrain nucleus robustus archistriatalis (RA), neurons burst during singing. We showed that the internal structure of spike bursts was regulated with a precision of circa 0.2 ms, and yielded alignment of acoustic features of song with a precision of circa 1 ms. In addition, interburst intervals and corresponding syllable durations displayed systematic variation within song (average elongation 0.3 ms/s song), and slower "drift" across songs. Systematic variation on even a coarser time scale might be difficult to detect in other systems, but could affect the analysis of temporal patterning. The close relationship between precise timing of individual spikes and stereotypic behavior suggests that song is represented in RA by a temporal code.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Songbirds / physiology*
  • Stereotyped Behavior / physiology
  • Time Factors
  • Vocalization, Animal / physiology*