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Neural circuits underlying the performance of vocal
communication signals in songbirds
Jon Sakata, PhD
Department of Biology, McGill University
Sakata Songbird Lab
Across a variety of species that use vocal signals for social communication,
signalers alter the structure and content of their vocal signals depending upon the
social context and audience. These vocal modifications have been hypothesized
to increase the salience and interpretability of communication signals, but little is
known about the neural mechanisms underlying such social influences on
communication. In this talk, I will discuss my recent experiments examining the
neural circuitry underlying the social modulation of song in songbirds. In
particular, I will discuss the degree to which cellular activity in forebrain, basal
ganglia, and midbrain circuits differs depending on the social context in which
vocalizations are performed as well as the contribution of catecholamines to the
social modulation of vocal performance. These experiments provide insight into
general mechanisms underlying social influences on behavior and highlight the
utility of songbirds for understanding neural mechanisms of communication and
vocal motor control.