Songbirds work around computational complexity by learning song vocabulary independently of sequence

Dina Lipkind, Anja T. Zai, Alexander Hanuschkin, Gary Marcus, Ofer Tchernichovski, Richard H.R. Hahnloser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

While acquiring motor skills, animals transform their plastic motor sequences to match desired targets. However, because both the structure and temporal position of individual gestures are adjustable, the number of possible motor transformations increases exponentially with sequence length. Identifying the optimal transformation towards a given target is therefore a computationally intractable problem. Here we show an evolutionary workaround for reducing the computational complexity of song learning in zebra finches. We prompt juveniles to modify syllable phonology and sequence in a learned song to match a newly introduced target song. Surprisingly, juveniles match each syllable to the most spectrally similar sound in the target, regardless of its temporal position, resulting in unnecessary sequence errors, that they later try to correct. Thus, zebra finches prioritize efficient learning of syllable vocabulary, at the cost of inefficient syntax learning. This strategy provides a non-optimal but computationally manageable solution to the task of vocal sequence learning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1247
JournalNature Communications
Volume8
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017

Fingerprint

Songbirds
Vocabulary
Music
syllables
learning
Computational complexity
Learning
Finches
Equidae
sensorimotor performance
syntax
Gestures
Motor Skills
Animals
Acoustic waves
Plastics
animals
plastics
acoustics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)

Cite this

Lipkind, D., Zai, A. T., Hanuschkin, A., Marcus, G., Tchernichovski, O., & Hahnloser, R. H. R. (2017). Songbirds work around computational complexity by learning song vocabulary independently of sequence. Nature Communications, 8(1), [1247]. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-017-01436-0

Songbirds work around computational complexity by learning song vocabulary independently of sequence. / Lipkind, Dina; Zai, Anja T.; Hanuschkin, Alexander; Marcus, Gary; Tchernichovski, Ofer; Hahnloser, Richard H.R.

In: Nature Communications, Vol. 8, No. 1, 1247, 01.12.2017.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Lipkind, D, Zai, AT, Hanuschkin, A, Marcus, G, Tchernichovski, O & Hahnloser, RHR 2017, 'Songbirds work around computational complexity by learning song vocabulary independently of sequence', Nature Communications, vol. 8, no. 1, 1247. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-017-01436-0
Lipkind, Dina ; Zai, Anja T. ; Hanuschkin, Alexander ; Marcus, Gary ; Tchernichovski, Ofer ; Hahnloser, Richard H.R. / Songbirds work around computational complexity by learning song vocabulary independently of sequence. In: Nature Communications. 2017 ; Vol. 8, No. 1.
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