S2E4 Jesse Goldberg on Neurobiology and Vocal Learning in Song Birds

The Animal Behavior Podcast

Jun 13 2022 • 52 mins


In this episode, Matthew speaks with Jesse Goldberg (@jesseGlab),  Associate Professor and Robert R. Capranica Fellow in the neurobiology and behavior department at Cornell University.

They first cover Jesse's perspectives on some basics of neurobiology-- what he identifies as a brain's function and the brain's role in creating predictions and controlling movement. They then discuss the role of dopamine in an animal's learning and discoveries that Jesse's lab has made regarding the role of dopamine in song learning in zebra finches, in particular.

Then after the break they discuss Jesse's path from to neurobiology as well as the limitations and promises of the field of neurobiology.

A clarifying note to listeners, during our conversation the nervous systems of a marine animal - the sea squirt - becomes relevant. Although discussed as an example, we want to be clear that sea squirts retain some form of nervous system throughout their entire lives (though they digest large parts of their nervous system upon become sessile). For a more detailed look at the sea squirt's transition from mobile to sessile, check out this blog post.

This week's Two-Minute Takeaway comes from Andrew Legan (@AndrewLegan), a recently minted PhD from the NBB department at Cornell. Read Andrew's work on odorant receptor expansion in paper wasps here.

Media relevant to today's show:

1.
The paper identifying dopamine neurons' role in song learning/self-assessment in zebra finches

Gadagkar, V., Puzerey, P. A., Chen, R., Baird-Daniel, E., Farhang, A. R., & Goldberg, J. H. (2016). Dopamine neurons encode performance error in singing birds. Science, 354(6317), 1278-1282.

2. The paper describing how dopamine neurons respond differently when in the presence of females

Gadagkar, V., Puzerey, P. A., & Goldberg, J. H. (2019). Dopamine neurons change their tuning according to courtship context in singing birds. bioRxiv, 822817.

3. (Restricted Access) i of the Vortex, by Rodolfo Llinás. A book that argues that the evolution of movement and the mind are deepy intertwined:

http://cognet.mit.edu/book/i-of-vortex

Credits:
The Animal Behavior Podcast is created by a team of animal behavior researchers and audio professionals. Come meet us here! We receive production support from the Cornell Broadcast studio, directed by Bert Odom-Reed and financial support from the Animal Behavior Society.