Songbird: a unique animal model for studying the molecular basis of disorders of vocal development and communication

Exp Anim. 2015;64(3):221-30. doi: 10.1538/expanim.15-0008. Epub 2015 Apr 24.


Like humans, songbirds are one of the few animal groups that learn vocalization. Vocal learning requires coordination of auditory input and vocal output using auditory feedback to guide one's own vocalizations during a specific developmental stage known as the critical period. Songbirds are good animal models for understand the neural basis of vocal learning, a complex form of imitation, because they have many parallels to humans with regard to the features of vocal behavior and neural circuits dedicated to vocal learning. In this review, we will summarize the behavioral, neural, and genetic traits of birdsong. We will also discuss how studies of birdsong can help us understand how the development of neural circuits for vocal learning and production is driven by sensory input (auditory information) and motor output (vocalization).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Basal Ganglia / physiology
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Feedback, Sensory / physiology
  • Hearing / physiology
  • Humans
  • Imitative Behavior / physiology
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Models, Animal
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Songbirds / physiology*
  • Vocalization, Animal / physiology*