Williams, S.M.*, A. Nast* and M.J. Coleman. 2012. Characterization of synaptically connected nuclei in a potential motor feedback pathway in the zebra finch song system. PLoS ONE 7(2): e32178.
|Birdsong is a learned behavior that is controlled by a group of identified nuclei, known collectively as the song system. The cortical nucleus HVC (used as a proper name) is a focal point of many investigations as it is necessary for song production, song learning, and receives selective auditory information. HVC receives input from several sources including the cortical area MMAN (medial magnocellular nucleus of the nidopallium). The MMAN to HVC connection is particularly interesting as it provides potential sensorimotor feedback to HVC. To begin to understand the role of this connection, we investigated the physiological relation between MMAN and HVC activity with simultaneous multiunit extracellular recordings from these two nuclei in urethane anesthetized zebra finches. As previously reported, we found similar timing in spontaneous bursts of activity in MMAN and HVC. Like HVC, MMAN responds to auditory playback of the bird's own song (BOS), but had little response to reversed BOS or conspecific song. Stimulation of MMAN resulted in evoked activity in HVC, indicating functional excitation from MMAN to HVC. However, inactivation of MMAN resulted in no consistent change in auditory responses in HVC. Taken together, these results indicate that MMAN provides functional excitatory input to HVC but does not provide significant auditory input to HVC in anesthetized animals. We hypothesize that MMAN may play a role in motor reinforcement or coordination, or may provide modulatory input to the song system about the internal state of the animal as it receives input from the hypothalamus.|
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