Munich Neuroscience Calendar


11.02.2021, 13:00 Max-Planck-Institut für Ornithologie
until 14:00
Event Type: Talk
Speaker: Arkarup Banerjee
Institute: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

Title: Motor cortical dynamics underlying vocal interactions in the singing mice

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Host: Daniela Vallentin
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Using sounds for social interactions is common across many taxa. Humans engaged in conversation, for example, take rapid turns to go back and forth. This ability to act upon sensory information to generate a desired motor output is a fundamental feature of animal behavior. How the brain enables such flexible sensorimotor transformations, for example during vocal interactions, is a central question in neuroscience. Seeking a rodent model to fill this niche, we are investigating neural mechanisms of vocal interaction in Alston’s singing mouse (Scotinomys teguina) – a neotropical rodent native to the cloud forests of Central America. We discovered sub-second temporal coordination of advertisement songs (counter-singing) between males of this species – a behavior that requires the rapid modification of motor outputs in response to auditory cues. We leveraged this natural behavior to probe the neural mechanisms that generate and allow fast and flexible vocal communication. Using causal manipulations, we recently showed that an orofacial motor cortical area (OMC) in this rodent is required for vocal interactions (Okobi, Banerjee et. al, 2019). Subsequently, in electrophysiological recordings, I find neurons in OMC that track initiation, termination and relative timing of songs. Interestingly, persistent neural dynamics during song progression stretches or compresses on every trial to match the total song duration (Banerjee et al, in preparation). These results demonstrate robust cortical control of vocal timing in a rodent and forces us to reconsider the evolutionary origins of motor cortical control of vocal output.

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