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Auditory-induced neural dynamics in sensory-motor circuitry predict learned temporal and sequential statistics of birdsong.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2016 08 23;113(34):9641-6

Authors: Bouchard KE, Brainard MS

Predicting future events is a critical computation for both perception and behavior. Despite the essential nature of this computation, there are few studies demonstrating neural activity that predicts specific events in learned, probabilistic sequences. Here, we test the hypotheses that the dynamics of internally generated neural activity are predictive of future events and are structured by the learned temporal-sequential statistics of those events. We recorded neural activity in Bengalese finch sensory-motor area HVC in response to playback of sequences from individuals’ songs, and examined the neural activity that continued after stimulus offset. We found that the strength of response to a syllable in the sequence depended on the delay at which that syllable was played, with a maximal response when the delay matched the intersyllable gap normally present for that specific syllable during song production. Furthermore, poststimulus neural activity induced by sequence playback resembled the neural response to the next syllable in the sequence when that syllable was predictable, but not when the next syllable was uncertain. Our results demonstrate that the dynamics of internally generated HVC neural activity are predictive of the learned temporal-sequential structure of produced song and that the strength of this prediction is modulated by uncertainty.

PMID: 27506786 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]