How do forebrain and brainstem circuits interact to produce temporally precise and reproducible behaviors? Birdsong is an elaborate, temporally precise, and stereotyped vocal behavior controlled by a network of forebrain and brainstem nuclei. An influential idea is that song premotor neurons in a forebrain nucleus (HVC) form a synaptic chain that dictates song timing in a top-down manner. Here we combine physiological, dynamical, and computational methods to show that song timing is not generated solely by a mechanism localized to HVC but instead is the product of a distributed and recurrent synaptic network spanning the forebrain and brainstem, of which HVC is a component.
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