Zhe Peng

Beijing Normal University, Peping, Beijing, China

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Publications (3)8.4 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Birdsong learning bears many similarities to human speech acquisition. Although the anterior forebrain pathway (AFP) is believed to be involved in birdsong learning, the underlying neural mechanisms are unclear. We produced two types of abnormal song learning: young birds untutored from adult "song tutors", or birds deafened by bilateral cochlear removal before the onset of sensory learning. We then studied how ultrastructure and electrophysiological activity changed in an AFP nucleus, Area X, among these birds at adulthood. Our results showed that, although the size of Area X did not change significantly, the numbers of synapses per unit area and compound synapses and the percent of concave synapses increased significantly in the untutored or deafened birds. The percent of perforated synapses or axo-spinous synapses decreased compared to the normally reared birds, suggesting a decreased efficiency of synaptic transmission in the untutored or deafened birds. We then identified several types of spontaneously firing cells in Area X. Cells with fast and slow firing rates did not show significant electrophysiological differences among the groups, but cells with moderate firing rates, most likely DLM-projecting neurons, fired at significantly lower rates in the untutored and deafened birds. In addition, cells firing irregularly were only found in the deafened birds. Thus, the decreased or irregular electrophysiological activity in the untutored or deafened birds, together with the corresponding ultrastructural findings, could be implicated in the abnormal song production in these two types of birds.
    No preview · Article · Jun 2013 · Brain research
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    ABSTRACT: Songbirds are increasingly used as an experimentally tractable system to study the neurobiological underpinnings of vocal learning. To gain additional insights into how birdsongs are learned, we compared the size of HVC, the high vocal center for song production, and its ultrastructural or electrophysiological properties between the normally reared Bengalese finches, and the untutored or deafened ones before the onset of sensory learning (around post-hatching day 20). Our results showed that HVC had more synapses and concave synaptic curvature, but fewer perforated synapse, in the untutored or deafened birds in comparison with those in the normally reared birds. Although there was no significant difference of the ratio of straight or compound synapses, there was an increasing tendency for the untutored and deafened birds to possess more straight and compound synapses. These data revealed that synapses in the isolated or deafened birds had lower synapse activity in relation to those with normal hearing. This was confirmed by our electrophysiological results to show significant decreases in the firing rates of spike or burst in the isolated or deafened birds in the three types of HVC neurons i.e., putative X-projecting neurons, RA-projecting neurons and interneurons. In addition, low firing frequency (<10Hz) occurred much more in the above three types of HVC neurons in the tutored or deafened birds than in the normally reared birds. These data suggest that all the three putative types of neurons in HVC might be involved in the activity of the production of adult normal songs.
    No preview · Article · Sep 2012 · Brain research bulletin
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    ABSTRACT: To gain additional insight into how a birdsong is learned, we compared the songs of Bengalese finch males that were deafened early in development or raised without tutors to control finches that learned songs from adult models. Fewer note types and a more variable number of notes per bout were observed in untutored male songs, and no audible songs were detected in deafened males. We then investigated the ultrastructural, immunohistological, and electrophysiological correlates of the outcomes of song learning within the robust nucleus of the archopallium (RA), a forebrain nucleus for song production. In comparison to control birds, untutored and deafened birds had more synapses per unit volume, fewer vesicles per synapse, longer postsynaptic densities, and a lower proportion of perforated synapses, which suggest lower activity or decreased efficiency of synaptic transmission within the RA of the treated birds. For anesthetized birds, neurons within the RA of untutored and deafened males had lower spontaneous firing rates, fewer and shorter bursts, and higher coefficient of variation of the instantaneous firing rate than the normally reared males. Compared with controls, the untutored and deafened males had higher staining intensities within the RA of GABA and the GABA(A) receptor, less staining of tyrosine hydroxylase and no difference in the staining of NMDA receptors. Thus, both the ultrastructural and immunohistochemical results could explain for the stronger electrophysiological activities in normally reared birds. Because RA is involved in generating the motor commands, these data might account for the deficits in birds with abnormal song learning.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2012 · Brain research