Michale Fee (MIT)

The event will start on: Thu, Oct 24, 2013 | 4:30 pm
Location: O-S-6 Green Hall | Princeton University

Neuroscience Seminar Series


michale fee

Michale Fee
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Sensitivity to temporal sequence is a striking and nearly universal aspect of brain function – not only at a sensory level, but also at a motor and cognitive level. The ability of the brain to step rapidly through a learned sequence of states underlies not only the performance of complex motor tasks such as speech, but perhaps our ability to think and plan as well. Despite the fundamental significance of temporal ordering in animal behavior, little is known about the biophysical and circuit mechanisms underlying the generation, learning and detection of complex sequences in the brain.

Animal vocalizations provide a marvelous example of these phenomena, and we are using the songbird as an experimental system to explore detailed models of neural sequence generation. Most songbirds, such as the zebra finch, produce a stereotyped pattern of acoustic signals with structure and modulation over a wide range of time-scales, from milliseconds to several seconds (Figure 1). Another remarkable aspect of this behavior is that the specific acoustic pattern produced by a songbird is learned, rather than being innately controlled: Vocalizations are learned from the parents through a series of well-defined stages. Moreover, avian brain areas involved in song learning are closely homologous to mammalian brain areas involved in motor learning. Thus, the song control system may have a great deal to teach us about general principles of sequence generation and learning in the vertebrate brain.

Seminar Topic

A Model of Basal Ganglia Function, Inspired by the Songbird

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