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Vocal communicators discriminate conspecific vocalizations from other sounds and recognize the vocalizations of individuals. To identify neural mechanisms for the discrimination of such natural sounds, we compared the linear spectro-temporal tuning properties of auditory midbrain and forebrain neurons in zebra finches with the statistics of natural sounds,(More)
Physiological studies in vocal animals such as songbirds indicate that vocalizations drive auditory neurons particularly well. But the neural mechanisms whereby vocalizations are encoded differently from other sounds in the auditory system are unknown. We used spectrotemporal receptive fields (STRFs) to study the neural encoding of song versus the encoding(More)
The spectro-temporal receptive field (STRF) of an auditory neuron describes the linear relationship between the sound stimulus in a time-frequency representation and the neural response. Time-frequency representations of a sound in turn require a nonlinear operation on the sound pressure waveform and many different forms for this non-linear transformation(More)
Auditory perception depends on the coding and organization of the information-bearing acoustic features of sounds by auditory neurons. We report here that auditory neurons can be classified into functional groups, each of which plays a specific role in extracting distinct complex sound features. We recorded the electrophysiological responses of single(More)
Understanding song perception and singing behavior in birds requires the study of auditory processing of complex sounds throughout the avian brain. We can divide the basics of auditory perception into two general processes: (1) encoding, the process whereby sound is transformed into neural activity and (2) decoding, the process whereby patterns of neural(More)
In the auditory system, the stimulus-response properties of single neurons are often described in terms of the spectrotemporal receptive field (STRF), a linear kernel relating the spectrogram of the sound stimulus to the instantaneous firing rate of the neuron. Several algorithms have been used to estimate STRFs from responses to natural stimuli; these(More)
Critical learning periods are common in vertebrate development. In many birds, song learning is limited by a critical period; juveniles copy songs from adult birds by forming memories of those songs during a restricted developmental period and then using auditory feedback to practice their own vocalizations. Adult songs are stable over time regardless of(More)
Vocal communicators such as humans and songbirds readily recognize individual vocalizations, even in distracting auditory environments. This perceptual ability is likely subserved by auditory neurons whose spiking responses to individual vocalizations are minimally affected by background sounds. However, auditory neurons that produce background-invariant(More)
The sensorimotor neurons found in the song-system nuclei are responsive to the sounds of the bird's own song. This selectivity emerges during vocal learning and appears to follow the development of the bird's song vocalization in two ways: at each stage, the neurons are most selective for the bird's current vocalizations and this selectivity increases as(More)
Many social animals including songbirds use communication vocalizations for individual recognition. The perception of vocalizations depends on the encoding of complex sounds by neurons in the ascending auditory system, each of which is tuned to a particular subset of acoustic features. Here, we examined how well the responses of single auditory neurons(More)