The Avian Song Control System: A Model for Understanding Changes in Neural Structure and Function

  • Eliot A. Brenowitz
  • Sarah M. N. Woolley
Part of the Springer Handbook of Auditory Research book series (SHAR, volume 23)


Songs are complexly structured vocalizations that are widely used in communication by birds. Song behavior in the oscine passerines, songbirds, shares many features with human speech (Doupe and Kuhl 1999). Both song and speech are learned early in life in these species. There is an intimate relationship between the auditory and song/speech control systems. Young birds and humans must hear adults in order to imitate song/speech, and they show innate predispositions to learn conspecific vocalizations. Song and speech acquisition are characterized by an early perceptual phase in which models of the communication sounds are listened to and memorized. These sensory models, or templates, subsequently guide vocal production. Auditory feedback from an individual bird or human’s own vocalizations is necessary for both the development and maintenance of normal song and speech. Neural hierarchies involving projections from forebrain regions to midbrain areas and then to brain stem nuclei regulate both song and speech. For these reasons, birdsong has emerged as the leading animal model for studies of the neural basis of learned vocal communication.


Zebra Finch Auditory Feedback Song Type Song Learning Delayed Auditory Feedback 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eliot A. Brenowitz
  • Sarah M. N. Woolley

There are no affiliations available

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