Mechanisms Underlying the Development of Auditory Perce*

Project Details


The P.I. proposes to study the role of auditory perception in mediating vocal learning in a songbird, the zebra
finch. Young male zebra finches learn their songs from adult models through a process of imitation that
resembles human speech acquisition. As in humans, normative vocal learning is dependent on two phases
of learning. The first phase consists of establishing an auditory memory for the correct song model. The
second phase involves of vocal practice in which the young bird compares, matches, and eventually refines
his output to conform to the sensory representation of the model song (similar to the babbling that human
infants prior to recognizable speech production). The proposed experiments will use neurophysiological and
behavioral methods to further understand the mechanisms driving the formation of these auditory memories
and how the quality of these memories relates to the quality of the vocal learning. Specifically, the P.I. will:
1) study the influence of the behavioral context during early exposure on auditory memory formation 2)
measure in real time how perceptual tuning mediates auditory processing and discrimination for conspecific
vocalizations 3) study the development of auditory memories as they relate to vocal imitation in young birds
during the period of vocal learning. The research presented here will address fundamental questions
regarding the interplay between vocal learning and perceptual tuning in development. Thus, the findings
from this research will provide us with insights into the role of auditory experience on sensory development.
The mechanisms by which auditory perception develops and affects vocal behavior has yet to been fully
understood. By studying perception and vocal learning in a species that share similar characteristics to
human speech learning, we hope to provide information on how listening to and interacting with relevant
sounds during development affect the eventual processing and production of these signals
Effective start/end date12/6/0511/30/09


  • National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders: $75,010.00
  • National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders: $7,725.00


  • Speech and Hearing


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