Sensory feedback independent pre-song vocalizations correlate with time to song initiation [RESEARCH ARTICLE]

Divya Rao, Satoshi Kojima, and Raghav Rajan

The song of the adult male zebra finch is a well-studied example of a learned motor sequence. Song bouts begin with a variable number of introductory notes (INs) before actual song production. Previous studies have shown that INs progress from a variable initial state to a stereotyped final state before each song. This progression is thought to represent motor preparation, but the underlying mechanisms remain poorly understood. Here, we assessed the role of sensory feedback in the progression of INs to song. We found that the mean number of INs before song and the progression of INs to song were not affected by removal of two sensory feedback pathways (auditory or proprioceptive). In both feedback-intact and feedback-deprived birds, the presence of calls (other non-song vocalizations), just before the first IN, was correlated with fewer INs before song and an initial state closer to song. Finally, the initial IN state correlated with the time to song initiation. Overall, these results show that INs do not require real-time sensory feedback for progression to song. Rather, our results suggest that, changes in IN features and their transition to song are controlled by internal neural processes, possibly involved in getting the brain ready to initiate a learned movement sequence.

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