Early Experience and Auditory Development in Songbirds

  • Sarah M. N. WoolleyEmail author
Part of the Springer Handbook of Auditory Research book series (SHAR, volume 64)


Vocal communication is critical for life in a wide range of vertebrate species. Mammals, birds, frogs, and fishes rely on auditory processing to perceive the vocal signals of others in the environment and gain social information such as the presence of potential mates or predators. Conspecific vocalizations convey information on sex, age, individual identity, and behavioral state. The importance of vocal communication for social behavior places auditory processing at the forefront of brain functions that directly impact fitness. Young humans and songbirds require experience of adult vocal communication to develop their own perceptual and vocal skills. Studies on songbird vocal development and auditory processing are revealing how early experience and developmental plasticity interact to specialize central auditory function for vocal communication. This chapter reviews research findings that shed light on the role of early song experience in shaping adult song perception and the auditory coding of songs.


Auditory cortex Communication Learning Midbrain Neural coding Perception Plasticity Sensorimotor integration Sensory Social behavior Vocal 



The author thanks Edwin W Rubel for his scientific findings, ideas, and mentorship that contributed to this work. The author’s work was supported by NIH grant R01-DC-009810.

Compliance with Ethics Requirements

Sarah M. N. Woolley declares that she has no conflict of interest.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyJerome L. Greene Science CenterNew YorkUSA

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