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date: 05 March 2021

Abstract and Keywords

The social environment plays an important role in vocal development. In songbirds, social interactions that promote vocal learning are often characterized by contingent responses of adults to early, immature vocalizations. Parallel processes have been discovered in the early speech development of human infants. Why does contingent social feedback facilitate vocal learning so effectively? Answers may be found by connecting the neural mechanisms of vocal learning and control with those involved in processing social reward. This chapter extends the idea of Newman’s social behaviour network, a tightly interconnected system of limbic areas across which social behaviour and motivation are distributed, to an avian social/vocal control network. It explores anatomical and functional overlaps between song circuitry and social-motivational circuitry, describing how circuitry linking basal ganglia with cortical areas serves to integrate social reward with vocal control and may underlie socially guided vocal learning. In species that have evolved socially guided vocal learning, a unique link has been forgedbetween social circuitry and vocal learning systems, such that learning is driven by social motivation.

Keywords: vocal learning, socially guided learning, birdsong, zebra finch, reward circuitry, social system network, dopamine, anterior forebrain pathway, Area X, ventral tegmental area

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