Adult Bengalese finches (Lonchura striata var. domestica) require real-time auditory feedback to produce normal song syntax

J Neurobiol. 1997 Oct;33(4):343-56.


Songbirds develop their songs by imitating songs of adults. For song learning to proceed normally, the bird's hearing must remain intact throughout the song development process. In many species, song learning takes place during one period early in life, and no more new song elements are learned thereafter. In these so-called close-ended learners, it has long been assumed that once song development is complete, audition is no longer necessary to maintain the motor patterns of full song. However, many of these close-ended learners maintain plasticity in overall song organization; the number and the sequence of song elements included in a song of an individual vary from one utterance to another, although no new song elements are added or lost in adulthood. It is conceivable that these species rely on continued auditory feedback to produce normal song syntax. The Bengalese finch is a close-ended learner that produces considerably variable songs as an adult. In the present study, we found that Bengalese finches require real-time auditory feedback for motor control even after song learning is complete; deafening adult finches resulted in development of abnormal song syntax in as little as 5 days. We also found that there was considerable individual variation in the degree of song deterioration after deafening. The neural mechanisms underlying adult song production in different species of songbirds may be more diverse than has been traditionally considered.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustics
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Auditory Pathways / physiology*
  • Birds / physiology*
  • Cochlea / physiology*
  • Computer Systems*
  • Feedback
  • Male
  • Reference Values
  • Vocalization, Animal / physiology*