Development of temporal structure in zebra finch song.

Journal of neurophysiology

PubMedID: 23175805

Glaze CM, Troyer TW. Development of temporal structure in zebra finch song. J Neurophysiol. 2013;109(4):1025-35.
Zebra finch song has provided an excellent case study in the neural basis of sequence learning, with a high degree of temporal precision and tight links with precisely timed bursting in forebrain neurons. To examine the development of song timing, we measured the following four aspects of song temporal structure at four age ranges between 65 and 375 days posthatch: the mean durations of song syllables and the silent gaps between them, timing variability linked to song tempo, timing variability expressed independently across syllables and gaps, and transition probabilities between consecutive syllable pairs. We found substantial increases in song tempo between 65 and 85 days posthatch, due almost entirely to a shortening of gaps. We also found a decrease in tempo variability, also specific to gaps. Both the magnitude of the increase in tempo and the decrease in tempo variability were correlated on gap-by-gap basis with increases in the reliability of corresponding syllable transitions. Syllables had no systematic increase in tempo or decrease in tempo variability. In contrast to tempo parameters, both syllables and gaps showed an early sharp reduction in independent variability followed by continued reductions over the first year. The data suggest that links between syllable-based representations are strengthened during the later parts of the traditional period of song learning and that song rhythm continues to become more regular throughout the first year of life. Similar learning patterns have been identified in human sequence learning, suggesting a potentially rich area of comparative research.