What is the role of sleep in motor learning? This Tuesday, November 7th, at Sensorimotor Journal Club, Cara Hampton will present an article on a study suggesting a critical role for sleep in song learning in birds:

 

Dave, A. S., & Margoliash, D. (2000). Song replay during sleep and computational rules for sensorimotor vocal learning. Science, 290(5492), 812-816. (link to pdf of this article)

 

Songbirds learn a correspondence between vocal-motor output and auditory feedback during development. For neurons in a motor cortex analog of adult zebra finches, we show that the timing and structure of activity elicited by the playback of song during sleep matches activity during daytime singing. The motor activity leads syllables, and the matching sensory response depends on a sequence of typically up to three of the preceding syllables. Thus, sensorimotor correspondence is reflected in temporally precise activity patterns of single neurons that use long sensory memories to predict syllable sequences. Additionally, "spontaneous" activity of these neurons during sleep matches their sensorimotor activity, a form of song "replay." These data suggest a model whereby sensorimotor correspondences are stored during singing but do not modify behavior, and off-line comparison (e.g., during sleep) of rehearsed motor output and predicted sensory feedback is used to adaptively shape motor output.