Social interactions regulates song perception in juvenile zebra finches during song learning
Yoko Yazaki-Sugiyama, PhD
Principal Investigator, Associate Professor
Development Project Associate Professor
Neuronal Mechanism for Critical Period Unit, Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University
International Research Center for Neurointelligence (IRCN), The University of Tokyo
Juvenile zebra finches learn to sing through vocal communications with their adult tutors. Song learning improves through social interactions with tutors, compared to passive listening to recorded tutor song playbacks. This suggests that high attention level, induced by social interactions with tutors, enhances song learning. We investigated whether social interactions change attention level and how that change affects song learning by recording activities of neurons in the attention control brain area, the nucleus locus coeruleus (LC), and the higher auditory area, the caudomedial nidopallium (NCM), where tutor song memories are suggested to be stored. We found that both LC and NCM neurons responded more intensely to live tutor singing than to TUT playbacks. Anatomical analysis showed that LC neurons, which were activated by exposure to live tutor singing, project to the NCM. Taken together, we suggest that social interactions with tutors modulate neuronal activity of the LC, which affects selective auditory responses of the NCM neurons, resulting in tutor song memory formation.
Dr. Yoko Yazaki-Sugiyama earned a Ph.D. from Sophia University on the neuroethological studies of quail vocal behavior. She started songbird study at my first postdoctoral fellowship in Rich Mooney’s lab at Duke University and then examined critical period neuronal mechanisms at Takao Hensch’s lab at the RIKEN Brain Science Institute before moving to an independent position at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) Graduate University and subsequently to The University of Tokyo.
Her study mainly focus on Neuronal Circuits Shaped by Early Experience for Learning Behaviors. The brain’s neuronal circuits are shaped by sensory experiences from the environment in early life. The wiring of neuronal circuits in this early critical period are essential to control the later development of higher cognitive functions. As human babies learn to speak from what they hear, songbirds learn to sing from what they listen to in the critical period developmental time window. Songbird song learning from auditory experiences include many interesting questions such as: how do they detect their own species songs and learn from them? How can they selectively learn from specific birds, normally their fathers, from the variety of songs they hear? Why do they learn only during a specific period of time during development? Her lab is tackling these questions and hope to understand how our nascent brain circuits make such intelligence possible.