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Hierarchical emergence of sequence sensitivity in the songbird auditory forebrain A Neuroethology, sensory, neural, and behavioral physiology

Ono, Satoko, Okanoya, Kazuo, Seki, Yoshimasa
Journal of comparative physiology 2016 v.202 no.3 pp. 163-183
Taeniopygia guttata, brain, neurons, songbirds
Bengalese finches (Lonchura striata var. domestica) generate more complex sequences in their songs than zebra finches. Because of this, we chose this species to explore the signal processing of sound sequence in the primary auditory forebrain area, field L, and in a secondary area, the caudomedial nidopallium (NCM). We simultaneously recorded activity from multiple single units in urethane-anesthetized birds. We successfully replicated the results of a previous study in awake zebra finches examining stimulus-specific habituation of NCM neurons to conspecific songs. Then, we used an oddball paradigm and compared the neural response to deviant sounds that were presented infrequently, with the response to standard sounds, which were presented frequently. In a single sound oddball task, two different song elements were assigned for the deviant and standard sounds. The response bias to deviant elements was larger in NCM than in field L. In a triplet sequence oddball task, two triplet sequences containing elements ABC and ACB were assigned as the deviant and standard. Only neurons in NCM that displayed broad-shaped spike waveforms had sensitivity to the difference in element order. Our results suggest the hierarchical processing of complex sound sequences in the songbird auditory forebrain.