The neuromuscular control of birdsong

Roderick A. Suthers, Franz Goller, Carolyn Pytte

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

152 Scopus citations

Abstract

Birdsong requires complex learned motor skills involving the coordination of respiratory, vocal organ and craniomandibular muscle groups. Recent studies have added to our understanding of how these vocal subsystems function and interact during song production. The respiratory rhythm determines the temporal pattern of song. Sound is produced during expiration and each syllable is typically followed by a small inspiration, except at the highest syllable repetition rates when a pattern of pulsatile expiration is used. Both expiration and inspiration are active processes. The oscine vocal organ, the syrinx, contains two separate sound sources at the cranial end of each bronchus, each with independent motor control. Dorsal syringeal muscles regulate the timing of phonation by adducting the sound-generating labia into the air stream. Ventral syringeal muscles have an important role in determining the fundamental frequency of the sound. Different species use the two sides of their vocal organ in different ways to achieve the particular acoustic properties of their song. Reversible paralysis of the vocal organ during song learning in young birds reveals that motor practice is particularly important in late plastic song around the time of song crystallization in order for normal adult song to develop. Even in adult crystallized song, expiratory muscles use sensory feedback to make compensatory adjustments to perturbations of respiratory pressure. The stereotyped beak movements that accompany song appear to have a role in suppressing harmonics, particularly at low frequencies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)927-939
Number of pages13
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volume354
Issue number1385
DOIs
StatePublished - May 29 1999

Keywords

  • Birdsong
  • Lateralization
  • Motor control
  • Respiration
  • Syrinx
  • Vocalization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'The neuromuscular control of birdsong'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this