Song decrystallization in adult zebra finches does not require the song nucleus NIf.
In adult male zebra finches, transecting the vocal nerve causes previously stable (i.e., crystallized) song to slowly degrade, presumably because of the resulting distortion in auditory feedback. How and where distorted feedback interacts with song motor networks to induce this process of song decrystallization remains unknown. The song premotor nucleus HVC is a potential site where auditory feedback signals could interact with song motor commands. Although the forebrain nucleus interface of the nidopallium (NIf) appears to be the primary auditory input to HVC, NIf lesions made in adult zebra finches do not trigger song decrystallization. One possibility is that NIf lesions do not interfere with song maintenance, but do compromise the adult zebra finch's ability to express renewed vocal plasticity in response to feedback perturbations. To test this idea, we bilaterally lesioned NIf and then transected the vocal nerve in adult male zebra finches. We found that bilateral NIf lesions did not prevent nerve section-induced song decrystallization. To test the extent to which the NIf lesions disrupted auditory processing in the song system, we made in vivo extracellular recordings in HVC and a downstream anterior forebrain pathway (AFP) in NIf-lesioned birds. We found strong and selective auditory responses to the playback of the birds' own song persisted in HVC and the AFP following NIf lesions. These findings suggest that auditory inputs to the song system other than NIf, such as the caudal mesopallium, could act as a source of auditory feedback signals to the song motor network.
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