Auditory discrimination learning and acoustic cue weighing in female zebra finches with localized FoxP1 knockdowns

Heim, F., Scharff, C., Fisher, S. E., Riebel, K., & Ten Cate, C. (2024). Auditory discrimination learning and acoustic cue weighing in female zebra finches with localized FoxP1 knockdowns. Journal of Neurophysiology, 131, 950-963. doi:10.1152/jn.00228.2023.
Rare disruptions of the transcription factor FOXP1 are implicated in a human neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by autism and/or intellectual disability with prominent problems in speech and language abilities. Avian orthologues of this transcription factor are evolutionarily conserved and highly expressed in specific regions of songbird brains, including areas associated with vocal production learning and auditory perception. Here, we investigated possible contributions of FoxP1 to song discrimination and auditory perception in juvenile and adult female zebra finches. They received lentiviral knockdowns of FoxP1 in one of two brain areas involved in auditory stimulus processing, HVC (proper name) or CMM (caudomedial mesopallium). Ninety-six females, distributed over different experimental and control groups were trained to discriminate between two stimulus songs in an operant Go/Nogo paradigm and subsequently tested with an array of stimuli. This made it possible to assess how well they recognized and categorized altered versions of training stimuli and whether localized FoxP1 knockdowns affected the role of different features during discrimination and categorization of song. Although FoxP1 expression was significantly reduced by the knockdowns, neither discrimination of the stimulus songs nor categorization of songs modified in pitch, sequential order of syllables or by reversed playback were affected. Subsequently, we analyzed the full dataset to assess the impact of the different stimulus manipulations for cue weighing in song discrimination. Our findings show that zebra finches rely on multiple parameters for song discrimination, but with relatively more prominent roles for spectral parameters and syllable sequencing as cues for song discrimination.

NEW & NOTEWORTHY In humans, mutations of the transcription factor FoxP1 are implicated in speech and language problems. In songbirds, FoxP1 has been linked to male song learning and female preference strength. We found that FoxP1 knockdowns in female HVC and caudomedial mesopallium (CMM) did not alter song discrimination or categorization based on spectral and temporal information. However, this large dataset allowed to validate different cue weights for spectral over temporal information for song recognition.
Publication type
Journal article
Publication date

Share this page