VTA modulation of plasticity

Summary

Principal Investigator: Jon T Sakata
Abstract: Whereas the neurobiology underlying singing behavior and the environmental and experiential factors that affect song development have been well characterized, little research to date has focused on the neural mechanism by which exogenous variables influence song. Here we propose to investigate the role of the ventral tegmental area (VTA) in modulating song change and in transducing reinforcing stimuli that have been found to affect song development. The VTA has been implicated in reinforcement learning in a variety of vertebrates, and the avian VTA is well situated to shape song because of its connections with telencephalic nuclei dedicated to singing behavior. In Specific Aim 1 of this proposal, we will assess the degree to which pairing VTA stimulation to the singing of particular song elements will change song. Because VTA activation is rewarding, we are essentially testing whether reward contingencies can affect song, and we predict that elements paired with VTA stimulation will become more prevalent over time. In Specific Aim 2, we will investigate what stimuli activate VTA neurons. We will assess VTA activity following food reward, the presentation of videos of conspecifics displaying different social behaviors and playbacks of conspecific and heterospecific songs. We will conduct these studies in the Bengalese finch, a bird with a large vocal repertoire. In the end, we will gain insight into the response properties of VTA neurons, the functional consequences of VTA activity on singing behavior and, more generally, a deeper understanding of the role of reward systems in vertebrate learning.
Funding Period: 2004-01-01 - 2005-12-31
more information: NIH RePORT

Top Publications

  1. pmc Integrating perspectives on vocal performance and consistency
    Jon T Sakata
    Department of Biology, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada, H3A 1B1
    J Exp Biol 215:201-9. 2012
  2. ncbi Real-time contributions of auditory feedback to avian vocal motor control
    Jon T Sakata
    Keck Center for Integrative Neuroscience, Department of Physiology, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California 94143 0444, USA
    J Neurosci 26:9619-28. 2006
  3. ncbi Social modulation of sequence and syllable variability in adult birdsong
    Jon T Sakata
    Keck Center for Integrative Neuroscience, Department of Physiology, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94143 0444, USA
    J Neurophysiol 99:1700-11. 2008
  4. pmc Online contributions of auditory feedback to neural activity in avian song control circuitry
    Jon T Sakata
    Keck Center for Integrative Neuroscience, Department of Physiology, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California 94143 0444, USA
    J Neurosci 28:11378-90. 2008
  5. pmc An avian basal ganglia-forebrain circuit contributes differentially to syllable versus sequence variability of adult Bengalese finch song
    Cara M Hampton
    Keck Center for Integrative Neuroscience, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94143 0444, USA
    J Neurophysiol 101:3235-45. 2009
  6. pmc Social context rapidly modulates the influence of auditory feedback on avian vocal motor control
    Jon T Sakata
    Department of Physiology, Keck Center for Integrative Neuroscience, University of California, San Francisco, California 94143 0444, USA
    J Neurophysiol 102:2485-97. 2009

Scientific Experts

Detail Information

Publications6

  1. pmc Integrating perspectives on vocal performance and consistency
    Jon T Sakata
    Department of Biology, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada, H3A 1B1
    J Exp Biol 215:201-9. 2012
    ....
  2. ncbi Real-time contributions of auditory feedback to avian vocal motor control
    Jon T Sakata
    Keck Center for Integrative Neuroscience, Department of Physiology, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California 94143 0444, USA
    J Neurosci 26:9619-28. 2006
    ..Moreover, they demonstrate that song premotor circuitry is sensitive to auditory feedback during singing and suggest that feedback may contribute in real time to the control and calibration of song...
  3. ncbi Social modulation of sequence and syllable variability in adult birdsong
    Jon T Sakata
    Keck Center for Integrative Neuroscience, Department of Physiology, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94143 0444, USA
    J Neurophysiol 99:1700-11. 2008
    ..These data indicate that the nervous system exerts active control over variability at multiple levels of song organization and support the hypothesis that such variability in otherwise stable adult song serves a function...
  4. pmc Online contributions of auditory feedback to neural activity in avian song control circuitry
    Jon T Sakata
    Keck Center for Integrative Neuroscience, Department of Physiology, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California 94143 0444, USA
    J Neurosci 28:11378-90. 2008
    ....
  5. pmc An avian basal ganglia-forebrain circuit contributes differentially to syllable versus sequence variability of adult Bengalese finch song
    Cara M Hampton
    Keck Center for Integrative Neuroscience, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94143 0444, USA
    J Neurophysiol 101:3235-45. 2009
    ..These results show that LMAN contributes differentially to syllable versus sequence variability of adult song and suggest that these forms of variability are regulated by distinct neural pathways...
  6. pmc Social context rapidly modulates the influence of auditory feedback on avian vocal motor control
    Jon T Sakata
    Department of Physiology, Keck Center for Integrative Neuroscience, University of California, San Francisco, California 94143 0444, USA
    J Neurophysiol 102:2485-97. 2009
    ..More generally, they indicate that, for song, as for other motor skills including human speech, the influence of sensory feedback on activity within vocal premotor circuitry can be dynamically modulated...