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Of Mice, Birds and Men: The Mouse Ultrasonic Song System

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Published on May 23, 2012

Of Mice, Birds and Men: The Mouse Ultrasonic Song System has Features Once Throught Unique to Humans and Song Learning Birds




Air date: Wednesday, May 16, 2012, 3:00:00 PM
Time displayed is Eastern Time, Washington DC Local

Category: Wednesday Afternoon Lectures
Description: Humans and song-learning birds communicate acoustically using learned vocalizations. The characteristic features of this social communication behavior include vocal control by forebrain motor areas, a direct cortical projection to brainstem vocal motor neurons, and dependence on auditory feedback to develop and maintain learned vocalizations. These features have not been found in closely related primate and avian species that do not learn vocalizations. Male mice produce courtship ultrasonic vocalizations (USVs) with acoustic features similar to songs of song-learning birds. However, it is assumed that mice lack a forebrain system for vocal modification and that their USVs are innate. Dr. Jarvis will present his lab's discovery of the mouse song system and show that it includes a localized motor cortex region, which—during singing—projects directly to brainstem vocal motor neurons and keeps songs more stereotyped and on pitch. His lab also discovered that male mice depend on auditory feedback to develop and maintain normal ultrasonic song. When cross-housed under competitive social conditions, substrains of mice that have differences in their songs can imitate each others' pitch. Dr. Jarvis concludes that male mice have at least some neuroanatomical and behavioral features thought to be unique to humans and song-learning birds, suggesting that mice have limited vocal modification abilities or that a reevaluation of species differences is in order. His lab hypothesizes that the trait of vocal learning is not dichotomous, as long assumed, but a continuum with mice being intermediate between other well-studied species.

The NIH Wednesday Afternoon Lecture Series includes weekly scientific talks by some of the top researchers in the biomedical sciences worldwide.

For more information, visit:
The NIH Director's Wednesday Afternoon Lecture Series
Author: Dr. Erich D. Jarvis, Duke University Medical Center Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Permanent link: http://videocast.nih.gov/launch.asp?1...

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