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Inhibition protects acquired song segments during vocal learning in zebra finches

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Science  15 Jan 2016:
Vol. 351, Issue 6270, pp. 267-271
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad3023
  • Fig. 1 Responses of HVC premotor neurons to the tutor song are developmentally suppressed.

    (A) Example intracellular recording from an HVC premotor neuron in an awake juvenile zebra finch during tutor song presentation (sonogram frequency: 0.5 to 7.5 kHz). Below is a spike raster plot showing seven repetitions from the same neuron; the shaded region indicates the time of tutor song exposure with an additional 50 ms after the end of the song. (B) Firing rate of HVC premotor neuron firing in juvenile zebra finches [silence, 1.7 ± 2.7 Hz; tutor, 2.1 ± 3.3 Hz; P = 0.114, repeated-measures analysis of variance (ANOVA)]. (C) Spiking precision (see materials and methods) of HVC premotor neuron firing in juvenile zebra finches (silence, 0.0 ± 1.1; tutor, 3.0 ± 1.2; P = 0.007, repeated-measures ANOVA). (D) Example HVC premotor neuron recording in an awake adult bird during tutor song presentation, with spike raster below. (E) Membrane potential variance of HVC premotor neurons was greater in juveniles (5.8 ± 5.3 mV2) than in adults (2.3 ± 1.6 mV2) (P = 0.004, Wilcoxon rank sum test); the shaded region denotes the 95% confidence interval. (F) Subthreshold precision in HVC premotor neurons was greater in juveniles (0.16 ± 0.14) than in adults (0.08 ± 0.06) (P = 0.025, Wilcoxon rank sum test). (G) Tutor song responses from an HVC premotor neuron in an awake adult bird after local gabazine infusion (0.01 mM). (H) Firing rate during silence (3.6 ± 5.8 Hz) and during tutor song presentation (4.6 ± 8.2 Hz) (n = 14 neurons; P < 0.001, repeated-measures ANOVA) after local gabazine infusion. (I) Spiking precision was greater during the tutor song presentation (2.7 ± 2.5) than during silence (–0.1 ± 0.9) (P = 0.016, repeated-measures ANOVA).

  • Fig. 2 Tutor song–evoked inhibition strengthens and sharpens with improved song performance.

    (A and B) Awake spiking activity of example HVC interneurons recorded in a juvenile (A) and an adult (B) bird during silence and tutor song presentation dph, days post-hatch. (C) Across the population, the precision of HVC interneuron firing did not differ between juveniles (3.8 ± 4.0 Hz) and adults (2.9 ± 1.7 Hz) (P = 0.51, Wilcoxon rank sum test). (D) Spiking precision of HVC interneurons depending on performance (P = 0.056, linear mixed-effect model). The solid circles and colored crosses represent data shown in the examples to the left. (E and F) Awake voltage-clamp recordings of inhibitory currents onto two HVC premotor neurons (images at top; scale bar, 10 μm) in response to a tutor song. For each cell, five single sweeps are presented as well as an average. The dotted line represents the distance from baseline (0 pA). (G and H) Amplitude histograms of detected inhibitory events during silence (black) and tutor song (gray) for juveniles 1 (G) and 2 (H). Mean of the amplitude distribution is indicated as a dashed vertical line. (I to L) Changes in tutor song–evoked inhibition onto HVC premotor neurons as a function of performance. Increasing similarity to the tutor song is associated with an increase (P < 0.01, linear mixed-effect model) in the inhibitory charge (I), amplitude (J), and frequency (K) of inhibitory events, and in the precision of inhibition across trials (L) (shaded region = 95% confidence interval). The solid circles represent data shown in the examples above.

  • Fig. 3 Learning is associated with synchronous network inhibition.

    (A) Recording schematic and two-photon images of four recorded HVC premotor neurons in the same zebra finch. Scale bar, 10 μm.(B and C) Average inhibitory (B) and excitatory (C) current traces of premotor neurons shown in (A) during tutor song presentation. (D) Regularity of tutor song–evoked inhibitory currents across different neurons within one bird significantly increases with learning (P < 0.05, Pearson linear correlation). The solid circles represent data shown in the examples to the left. (E) Regularity of tutor song–evoked excitatory currents across different neurons within one bird does not significantly change depending on performance (P = 0.35, Pearson linear correlation).

  • Fig. 4 Inhibition accurately targets learned portions of the tutor song.

    (A) Schematic of the training procedure. (B) Example syllables produced by a juvenile during an early learning phase in which syllable A is copied with 82.5% similarity and syllable B is copied with 48.8% similarity. (C) Syllable performance for eight individuals in their early learning stage singing a good copy of A (77.9 ± 4.7% similarity) and a poor copy of B (42.2 ± 7.6% similarity). (D) Example syllables produced by a juvenile during a late learning phase in which both syllable A and B are copied well (85.7% and 88.9% similarity, respectively). (E) Syllable performance for four individual adults in their final learning stage singing a good copy of A (84.6 ± 1.9% similarity) and B (89.7 ± 2.2% similarity). (F and G) HVC interneuron activity (F) and inhibitory currents onto an HVC premotor neuron (G) during ABAB presentation recorded in two juvenile zebra finches performing a good copy of A (similarity: 75.6% and 84.6%, respectively) and a poor copy of B (similarity: 36.0% and 44.7%). The red and blue horizontal lines represent periods in which either the interneuron firing rate or HVC premotor neuron inhibition exceeds a 95% confidence interval. (H and I) Percentage of time that interneuron firing rates (n = 18 cells) (H) or HVC premotor inhibition (n = 10 cells) (I) exceeded the 95% confidence interval threshold across a population of four and five birds, respectively, that copied syllable A well and B poorly. (J and K) HVC interneuron activity (J) and HVC premotor neuron inhibition (K) during ABAB presentation recorded in a juvenile zebra finch performing a good copy of syllables A (similarity: 85.7% and 79.8%) and B (similarity: 88.9% and 94.9%). (L and M) Percentage of time that interneuron firing rates (n = 14 cells) (L) or HVC premotor inhibitory current amplitudes (n = 8 cells) (M) exceeded the 95% confidence interval threshold in two birds, respectively, that copied syllables A and B well.

Supplementary Materials

  • Inhibition protects acquired song segments during vocal learning in zebra finches

    Daniela Vallentin, Georg Kosche, Dina Lipkind, Michael A. Long

    Materials/Methods, Supplementary Text, Tables, Figures, and/or References

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    • Materials and Methods
    • Figs. S1 to S10
    • Caption for movie S1
    • References

    Images, Video, and Other Other Media

    Movie S1
    An adult zebra finch tutor (right) interacting with a juvenile. During this session, many repeated song motifs are presented to the juvenile bird.

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