Neural mechanisms of vocal sequence generation in the songbird

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2004 Jun;1016:153-70. doi: 10.1196/annals.1298.022.


Little is known about the biophysical and neuronal circuit mechanisms underlying the generation and learning of behavioral sequences. Songbirds provide a marvelous animal model in which to study these phenomena. By use of a motorized microdrive to record the activity of single neurons in the singing bird, we are beginning to understand the circuits that generate complex vocal sequences. We describe recent experiments elucidating the role of premotor song-control nucleus HVC in the production of song. We find that HVC neurons projecting to premotor nucleus RA each generate a single burst of spikes at a particular time in the song and may form a sparse representation of temporal order. We incorporate this observation into a working hypothesis for the generation of vocal sequences in the songbird, and examine some implications for song learning.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Efferent Pathways / physiology
  • Learning / physiology
  • Models, Neurological
  • Prosencephalon / physiology*
  • Songbirds / physiology*
  • Time Perception / physiology*
  • Vocalization, Animal / physiology*