Inhibitory and excitatory mechanisms underlying auditory responses to learned vocalizations in the songbird nucleus HVC

Neuron. 2003 Jul 3;39(1):177-94. doi: 10.1016/s0896-6273(03)00357-x.


Speech and birdsong require auditory feedback for their development and maintenance, necessitating precise auditory encoding of vocal sounds. In songbirds, the telencephalic song premotor nucleus HVC contains neurons that respond highly selectively to the bird's own song (BOS), a property distinguishing HVC from its auditory afferents. We examined the contribution of inhibitory and excitatory synaptic inputs to BOS-evoked firing in those HVC neurons innervating a pathway essential for audition-dependent vocal plasticity. Using in vivo intracellular techniques, we found that G protein-coupled, potassium-mediated inhibition, tuned to the BOS, interacts with BOS-tuned excitation through several mechanisms to shape neuronal firing patterns. Furthermore, in the absence of this inhibition, the response bias to the BOS increases, reminiscent of cancellation mechanisms in other sensorimotor systems.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation*
  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Auditory Cortex / physiology*
  • G Protein-Coupled Inwardly-Rectifying Potassium Channels
  • GTP-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Potassium Channels / metabolism
  • Potassium Channels, Inwardly Rectifying*
  • Songbirds / physiology*
  • Synapses / physiology
  • Vocalization, Animal / physiology*


  • G Protein-Coupled Inwardly-Rectifying Potassium Channels
  • Potassium Channels
  • Potassium Channels, Inwardly Rectifying
  • GTP-Binding Proteins