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Performance variability enables adaptive plasticity of 'crystallized' adult birdsong

Significant trial-by-trial variation persists even in the most practiced skills. One prevalent view is that such variation is simply 'noise' that the nervous system is unable to control or that remains below threshold for behavioural relevance. An alternative hypothesis is that such variation enable... Full description

Journal Title: Nature 2007-12-20, Vol.450 (7173), p.1240-1244
Main Author: Tumer, Evren C
Other Authors: Brainard, Michael S
Format: Electronic Article Electronic Article
Language: English
Subjects:
Publisher: London: Nature Publishing
ID: ISSN: 0028-0836
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recordid: cdi_proquest_miscellaneous_787358979
title: Performance variability enables adaptive plasticity of 'crystallized' adult birdsong
format: Article
creator:
  • Tumer, Evren C
  • Brainard, Michael S
subjects:
  • Adaptation, Physiological - physiology
  • Adults
  • Aging - physiology
  • Animals
  • Auditory Perception - physiology
  • Biological and medical sciences
  • Birds
  • Control systems
  • Crystallization
  • Disruption
  • Ear and associated structures. Auditory pathways and centers. Hearing. Vocal organ. Phonation. Sound production. Echolocation
  • Feedback - physiology
  • Finches - physiology
  • Fundamental and applied biological sciences. Psychology
  • Learning - physiology
  • Male
  • Motors
  • Noise
  • Psychomotor Performance - physiology
  • Skills
  • Vertebrates: nervous system and sense organs
  • Vocalization, Animal - physiology
ispartof: Nature, 2007-12-20, Vol.450 (7173), p.1240-1244
description: Significant trial-by-trial variation persists even in the most practiced skills. One prevalent view is that such variation is simply 'noise' that the nervous system is unable to control or that remains below threshold for behavioural relevance. An alternative hypothesis is that such variation enables trial-and-error learning, in which the motor system generates variation and differentially retains behaviours that give rise to better outcomes. Here we test the latter possibility for adult bengalese finch song. Adult birdsong is a complex, learned motor skill that is produced in a highly stereotyped fashion from one rendition to the next. Nevertheless, there is subtle trial-by-trial variation even in stable, 'crystallized' adult song. We used a computerized system to monitor small natural variations in the pitch of targeted song elements and deliver real-time auditory disruption to a subset of those variations. Birds rapidly shifted the pitch of their vocalizations in an adaptive fashion to avoid disruption. These vocal changes were precisely restricted to the targeted features of song. Hence, birds were able to learn effectively by associating small variations in their vocal behaviour with differential outcomes. Such a process could help to maintain stable, learned song despite changes to the vocal control system arising from ageing or injury. More generally, our results suggest that residual variability in well learned skills is not entirely noise but rather reflects meaningful motor exploration that can support continuous learning and optimization of performance.
language: eng
source:
identifier: ISSN: 0028-0836
fulltext: no_fulltext
issn:
  • 0028-0836
  • 1476-4687
  • 1476-4679
url: Link


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descriptionSignificant trial-by-trial variation persists even in the most practiced skills. One prevalent view is that such variation is simply 'noise' that the nervous system is unable to control or that remains below threshold for behavioural relevance. An alternative hypothesis is that such variation enables trial-and-error learning, in which the motor system generates variation and differentially retains behaviours that give rise to better outcomes. Here we test the latter possibility for adult bengalese finch song. Adult birdsong is a complex, learned motor skill that is produced in a highly stereotyped fashion from one rendition to the next. Nevertheless, there is subtle trial-by-trial variation even in stable, 'crystallized' adult song. We used a computerized system to monitor small natural variations in the pitch of targeted song elements and deliver real-time auditory disruption to a subset of those variations. Birds rapidly shifted the pitch of their vocalizations in an adaptive fashion to avoid disruption. These vocal changes were precisely restricted to the targeted features of song. Hence, birds were able to learn effectively by associating small variations in their vocal behaviour with differential outcomes. Such a process could help to maintain stable, learned song despite changes to the vocal control system arising from ageing or injury. More generally, our results suggest that residual variability in well learned skills is not entirely noise but rather reflects meaningful motor exploration that can support continuous learning and optimization of performance.
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subjectAdaptation, Physiological - physiology ; Adults ; Aging - physiology ; Animals ; Auditory Perception - physiology ; Biological and medical sciences ; Birds ; Control systems ; Crystallization ; Disruption ; Ear and associated structures. Auditory pathways and centers. Hearing. Vocal organ. Phonation. Sound production. Echolocation ; Feedback - physiology ; Finches - physiology ; Fundamental and applied biological sciences. Psychology ; Learning - physiology ; Male ; Motors ; Noise ; Psychomotor Performance - physiology ; Skills ; Vertebrates: nervous system and sense organs ; Vocalization, Animal - physiology
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descriptionSignificant trial-by-trial variation persists even in the most practiced skills. One prevalent view is that such variation is simply 'noise' that the nervous system is unable to control or that remains below threshold for behavioural relevance. An alternative hypothesis is that such variation enables trial-and-error learning, in which the motor system generates variation and differentially retains behaviours that give rise to better outcomes. Here we test the latter possibility for adult bengalese finch song. Adult birdsong is a complex, learned motor skill that is produced in a highly stereotyped fashion from one rendition to the next. Nevertheless, there is subtle trial-by-trial variation even in stable, 'crystallized' adult song. We used a computerized system to monitor small natural variations in the pitch of targeted song elements and deliver real-time auditory disruption to a subset of those variations. Birds rapidly shifted the pitch of their vocalizations in an adaptive fashion to avoid disruption. These vocal changes were precisely restricted to the targeted features of song. Hence, birds were able to learn effectively by associating small variations in their vocal behaviour with differential outcomes. Such a process could help to maintain stable, learned song despite changes to the vocal control system arising from ageing or injury. More generally, our results suggest that residual variability in well learned skills is not entirely noise but rather reflects meaningful motor exploration that can support continuous learning and optimization of performance.
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abstractSignificant trial-by-trial variation persists even in the most practiced skills. One prevalent view is that such variation is simply 'noise' that the nervous system is unable to control or that remains below threshold for behavioural relevance. An alternative hypothesis is that such variation enables trial-and-error learning, in which the motor system generates variation and differentially retains behaviours that give rise to better outcomes. Here we test the latter possibility for adult bengalese finch song. Adult birdsong is a complex, learned motor skill that is produced in a highly stereotyped fashion from one rendition to the next. Nevertheless, there is subtle trial-by-trial variation even in stable, 'crystallized' adult song. We used a computerized system to monitor small natural variations in the pitch of targeted song elements and deliver real-time auditory disruption to a subset of those variations. Birds rapidly shifted the pitch of their vocalizations in an adaptive fashion to avoid disruption. These vocal changes were precisely restricted to the targeted features of song. Hence, birds were able to learn effectively by associating small variations in their vocal behaviour with differential outcomes. Such a process could help to maintain stable, learned song despite changes to the vocal control system arising from ageing or injury. More generally, our results suggest that residual variability in well learned skills is not entirely noise but rather reflects meaningful motor exploration that can support continuous learning and optimization of performance.
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