Wired to Cooperate: Behavioral and neural mechanisms of duet singing in a neotropical wren
Melissa Coleman
Keck Science Department
From: 11:00 AM To: 12:00 PM
Thursday, Apr 10, 2014
Burns Lecture Hall, Keck Science Center
Cooperative behaviors require precise coordination of learned movements between individuals. To achieve these performances, brain circuits in each participant integrates information from at least two sources, feedback from the animal’s own behavior and information from the partner. How the brain represents these categories of information for the production of cooperative behaviors is currently not known in any species. In order to understand how the nervous system controls a cooperative behavior, we characterized both the behavior and neural activity of a bird whose song is a precisely timed duet between males and females, the plain-tailed wren (Mann et al., 2006). These birds live in thick bamboo on the slopes of the Andes. We hypothesized that, behaviorally each participant would either sing its part as a ‘fixed-action pattern’ or based on constant auditory feedback from the partner. To examine this we compared naturally occurring duet singing to solo singing and found that each bird requires sensory feedback from the partner. We then examined the contributions of auditory and visual feedback on duet production by controlling the distance and visual feedback between pairs of birds. We found that auditory delays influence the timing of the duet. To understand the neural basis of the behavior we recorded neural activity from a specific area of the brain known to be necessary for learned song production. We found that neurons in this area responded best to auditory playback of duet song and, that both males and females responded best to solo female song. These neural responses suggest an evolutionary specialization for a cooperative behavior in duetting birds.
Seminar Registered by: Velda Yount


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