Research NewsNeurobiology

How the Songbird Makes His Song

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Science  27 Sep 1996:
Vol. 273, Issue 5283, pp. 1801-1802
DOI: 10.1126/science.273.5283.1801


In human organizations, those at the top tend to set strategy, while leaving the details to their underlings. The same thing seems to happen in the brain—at least in the brain of the male zebra finch as it controls the bird's singing. On page1871 of this issue, researchers report that the singing instructions are relayed down a hierarchy ofbrain regions, getting progressively more detailed as they go. The firing patterns of neurons in the higher brain centers apparently specify collections of notes, while the patterns at the lower level define the basic sounds—most likely, the notes themselves.