Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization -- Department for Nonlinear Dynamics and Network Dynamics Group
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Tuesday, 18.12.2012 17 c.t.

Elemental motor gesture dynamics are encoded by song premotor cortical neurons in songbirds

by Gabriel B. 'Mindlin
from Laboratorio de sistemas dinámicos, Departamento de Física, FCEyN, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Contact person: Fred Wolf


Ludwig Prandtl lecture hall


Quantitative biomechanical models can help to identify control parameters used during movements, and movement parameters encoded by motor cortical neurons. We fit a mathematical dynamical systems model including subsyringeal pressure, syringeal biomechanics, and upper respiratory tract filtering to the songs of zebra finches. This reduced the dimensionality of singing dynamics, described as trajectories in pressure-tension space (motor 'gestures') near regions of bifurcation of the model. We assessed model parameters by characterizing the auditory response 'replay' of song premotor cortical HVC neurons to presentation of artificial song model variants in sleeping birds, and also examined HVC activity in singing birds. HVC projection neurons were excited and interneurons were modulated with near-zero time lag, at times of gesture trajectory extrema. Thus, HVC precisely encodes vocal motor output via the timing of extreme points of movement trajectories. We propose that the sequential activity of HVC neurons represents the sequence of gestures in song as a 'forward' model making predictions on expected behavior.

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