Joint Science Department Seminar


"Neural basis of cooperative behavior in the plain-tailed wren (Thryothorus euophrys)"
Dr. Melissa Coleman
Joint Science Department
From: 11:00 AM To: 12:00 PM
Thursday, Oct 14, 2010
Keck Science Center, Burns Lecture Hall
Male and female plain-tailed wrens cooperate in song production: males and females alternate syllables in a tightly coordinated duet song. How does the nervous system produce this cooperative behavior? I will discuss the first attempts to address this question from experiments I performed with a collaborator, Eric Fortune, in Ecuador during Spring 2010. As a first step towards understanding how sensorimotor systems in the brain mediate this cooperative behavior we made a detailed study of song production in these birds. We found that both males and females produce solitary songs that differ in the timing of the intervals between syllables to that of duet song. We also found that both males and females shift the frequencies of their song syllables during duets so that the frequencies are more similar to each other. To examine the representation of song in the brain we made extracellular recordings, in anesthetized birds, in a part of the song bird brain that is necessary for song production. Our preliminary neurophysiological data show that, as has been observed in several other species, neurons in this area of the brain respond best to the duet song over other sounds. Further, these neurons appear to preferentially respond to playback of the autogenous syllables and not to those of the companion bird. Most intriguingly, we found that these neurons respond to combinations of autogenous syllables and not the intervening syllables produced by the companion, providing the first insights into how the nervous system may code this cooperative behavior.
Seminar Registered by: Velda Yount


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