We use optogenetic methods to examine the function and connectivity of neural circuits involved in learning and producing birdsong. To identify the neural circuits involved in tutor song memory, I have used tutor-song contingent optogenetic manipulation of neural circuits in juvenile male zebra finches. The video shows an example of such experiments.
Using voice-recognition software specifically tuned to birdsong (developed in Michael Brainard’s laboratory at UCSF and Kosuke Hamaguchi in Richard Mooney’s laboratory at Duke) we can detect when the tutor is singing to his pupil and use this information to trigger optogenetic manipulation of neural activity in the pupil’s brain with millisecond precision.
My postdoctoral research demonstrated that motor circuits used in producing learned song also play a critical role in encoding tutor song (Roberts et al., 2012).