Relearning through Influence

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March 17, 2017 – MCAT CARS Passage

Question: What is your summary of the author’s main ideas. Post your own answer in the comments before reading those made by others.

Precise changes in brain circuitry occur as young zebra finches go from listening to their fathers’ courtship songs to knowing the songs themselves, according to a study led by neuroscientists at NYU Langone Medical Center and published online in a Science cover report on January 14.

The study reveals how birds learn songs through observation and practice, and the authors hope the work will guide future research into how patients with brain injuries might reacquire the ability to learn skilled behaviors like speech.

“While we have known for decades that adolescent songbirds only learn their songs if exposed to a tutor, we believe our study is the first to detail changes in nerve networks that make this mastery possible in maturing brains,” says senior study investigator Michael Long, PhD.

“Our results show that finch song learning reflects a ‘dance’ inside the brain’s vocal control center between nerve cells that capture information as the bird listens and those that direct muscle movement as it sings,” says Long, an assistant professor of neuroscience at NYU Langone.

In the current study, led by Daniela Vallentin, PhD, and Georg Kosche in the NYU Neuroscience Institute, the research team found that early in adolescence, just listening to a father’s song turns on the same brain cell networks that the young bird will use later to sing the song once learned.

A second result revolves around a set of nerve cells in the brain — inhibitory interneurons — which dampen the activity of surrounding nerves to sculpt sensory input into function. Researchers found that interneurons suppress the impact of each note in a father’s song as soon as it is learned, “locking” it into the younger bird’s memory piece by piece.

“Our research advances the understanding of how skilled behaviors are learned, and the role played by sensory inhibition in making memorized patterns permanent,” says Long. Such a framework, he says, could apply to complex behaviors in people, such as dancing or hitting a baseball.

For the study, researchers used electrodes to track brain cell activity in young zebra finches as they learned songs from a mentoring parent over several weeks. Typically zebra finches learn songs during their adolescence, which begins roughly a month after birth and lasts 100 days, during which they practice each song hundreds of thousands of times.

Specifically, researchers found that the influence of the parent on the adolescent’s nerve circuits gradually decreased as songs were learned, and that fast learners had faster brain changes.

The electrode experiments examined the cooperation between premotor neurons that control singing and inhibitory interneurons that together enabled song learning. After the courtship songs were learned, none of the premotor neurons turned on in response to a tutor’s song. Inhibitory signals from interneurons had formed “a barrier” over the learned notes, rendering them impervious to parental influence.

Long says the team will next conduct experiments that seek to clarify how networks of inhibitory interneurons “tell the difference” between songbird notes that have been mastered and those still being learned. Knowing that may guide future attempts to roll back inhibitory barriers established as behaviors are learned, making brain circuits available once again for the learning of skilled behaviors lost to injury or stroke.

Adapted from sciencedaily.

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This was an article on Psychology.

Have a great day.
Jack Westin
MCAT CARS Instructor.
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34 Comments


  1. Finches’s brain circuits change via song + inhibitory neuron influence + imp. human brain injury research

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  2. Brain circuits=changes during learning to knowing process

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  3. MIP: learning = brain activity
    Inhibitory interneurons = permanent + no influence after learning

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  4. There are certain neurological changes that adolescent song birds experience when learning a new skill (song). The study could help inform new ways of treating patients that have brain injuries in an effort to help them relearn skilled behaviors.

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  5. Skills are learned from watching a mentor. In the case of the finches it is song. There is a dynamic balance that exists in the brain between what has been learned and how it is then mastered and applied. Inhibitory interneuro s play a role in this process of “mastering”. A hope of this research is to apply the findings to human conditions post brain injury.

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  6. brain changes through learning, interneurons cause memory formation

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  7. Changes occur in brain cicuitry as a skilled behaviour is learned; ex: finch study

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  8. brain circuitry = change, inhibitory interneurons = secure memories

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  9. Learning = brain circuitry changes + inhibitory neurons = forms memory + more experiment needed = reacquire skills after brain injury

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  10. Learning = Observation, Dec. neuron activity = learned

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  11. Zebra finches = learn song through observation. Study showed brain circuitry activation and interactions of inter/preneurons for song learning and memory.

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  12. The study = how birds learn songs through observation and practice = changes in nerve network. The study = useful = how skilled behaviour learned in humans.

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  13. MI: Finch research on brain circuitry = understanding in humans relearning skills

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  14. understanding changes in neuron circuitry esp by the work of the promoter neurons and the inhibitory interneurons = could help efforts to rehabilitate lost skilled behav

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  15. Research = Finch learn how to sing through observation & practice when young = neuron activation
    Upon maturing, inhibitory inter neuron = barrier to learn; further study would help to achieve relearning in maturing brain

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  16. Specific changes in brain circuitry in young zebra finches happen from learning courtship songs to internalizing them/ Research will help brain injury patients reacquire abilities like speech (supported below) / Neural connection between nerves capturing information and those directing vocal muscles / Listening to father’s songs turns on same network responsible for singing the song / Inhibitory interneurons reinforce memory of songs learnt / Parent’s influence on adolescent gradually decreased with learning and mastery, brain changes as fast as learning takes place / Inhibitory interneurons formed barrier to prevent activation of premotor neurons/ taking down inhibitory barrier will reactivate circuitry for learning of lost skills/ behaviours

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  17. Purpose: to discuss zebra bird mem. research and its possible implications to human mem rehab.

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  18. Promoter influences vocal activation and neuronal inhibition which affects learning. Further studies will allow application to humans relearning skills.

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    1. *Pre-motor influence singing and inhibitory neurons

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  19. MIP: birds brain chem changes as song is learned=may help with injuries and understanding learning
    tone: neut

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  20. MIP: relearning = cooperation inhib interneurons = sensory input + brain change; future insight = improve brain injury pt.’s

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  21. Young male zebra finches learn their courtship songs by listening to their fathers. This learning process has been correlated with dynamic shifts in brain circuitry involving hearing and muscle control regions. Neural activation that occurred while the young bird listened to the farther was the same as activation that occurred once the bird was capable of singing on its own. This research could potentially help us further understand the relearning processes that occur in humans following injury.

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  22. increased learning–> decreased teacher influence; fish knowledge translated to humans

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  23. Research helps explain skilled behavior
    Increased songs learned => decreased parental influence
    These findings may help scientists figure out ways to get patients to relearn behaviors that have been lost

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  24. MIP: Learning songs = changes in brain networks + inhibitory interneurons = active
    Tone: Neutral

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  25. MIP: songs= brain circuitry changes. Learn = observation/practice –>humans. Young hear = brain activates. Parents influence decrease –> ^ learning

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  26. changing in brain circuit = change from learning (listening) to knowing. Once learned/mastered = inhibitory interneurons dampens parents’s influence inputs -> permanent learn -> may apply to help pts with strokes

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  27. The author reports that skills are learned from a tutor via observation and a study followed the finches’ song. Evidence has been found that show changes in the nerve network after learning a skill. The next study will be to understand how inhibitory interneurons differentiate things that were previously learned versus are still being learned in order to help people that lost skills after brain injury.

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  28. MI: brain changes from learning a song to knowing the song + practical applications
    MI2: listening to song = combination of learning and relaying centers = active
    MI3: parental influence =/=help after song is learned

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  29. MIP: study song-influenced brain changes & applying it to brain-injured patients; tone = neutral

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  30. The passage informs the audience about a neuroscience study thatbwas conducted on zebra finches, which observed their neural circuity before and after learning songs. It was evident that the zebra finch used premotor and inhibitory neurons to establish song learning, which later prevented the songs from the mentor bird once the adolescent bird had already learned the song. This brings hope to the researches to one day understand the inhibitory actions of the interneurons to help patients resesrablish learned skills after a stroke or injury.

    Reply

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