“Stability and Flexibility in Motor Networks”

Seminar | March 28 | 12-1 p.m. | 125 Li Ka Shing Center | Note change in location

 Michael Long, New York University School of Medicine

 Bioengineering (BioE)

For us to interact with the outside world, our brains must plan and dictate our actions and behaviors. In many cases, we learn to reproducibly execute a well-defined series of muscle movements to perform impressive feats, such as hitting a golf ball or playing the violin. In other cases, however, we are required to adjust our behavior to account for uncertain sensory information from the world around us. To address this issue, we consider a comparative approach to understand the circuit mechanisms underlying a range of complex vocal behaviors. We study the cellular and circuit mechanisms that enable the production of the zebra finch song, a highly stable behavior executed with a high degree of precision. We complement these studies by examining vocal interactions in the singing mouse (S. teguina), which can flexibly coordinate the timing of their vocalizations to interact with conspecifics in a process known as countersinging. We further consider human speech production, examining the relevant cortical mechanisms underlying vocal production and perception through principled focal perturbations. Using this comparative perspective, we can begin to understand shared mechanisms as well as important differences that exist across these vocal species to build functional models of vocal communication and to establish a framework for other skilled movements.