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Linking Social and Vocal Brains: Could Social Segregation Prevent a Proper Development of a Central Auditory Area in a Female Songbird?

Abstract : Direct social contact and social interaction affect speech development in human infants and are required in order to maintain perceptual abilities; however the processes involved are still poorly known. In the present study, we tested the hypothesis that social segregation during development would prevent the proper development of a central auditory area, using a "classical" animal model of vocal development, a songbird. Based on our knowledge of European starling, we raised young female starlings with peers and only adult male tutors. This ensured that female would show neither social bond with nor vocal copying from males. Electrophysiological recordings performed when these females were adult revealed perceptual abnormalities: they presented a larger auditory area, a lower proportion of specialized neurons and a larger proportion of generalist sites than wild-caught females, whereas these characteristics were similar to those observed in socially deprived (physically separated) females. These results confirmed and added to earlier results for males, suggesting that the degree of perceptual deficiency reflects the degree of social separation. To our knowledge, this report constitutes the first evidence that social segregation can, as much as physical separation, alter the development of a central auditory area.
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Hugo Cousillas, Isabelle George, Laurence Henry, Jean-Pierre Richard, Martine Hausberger. Linking Social and Vocal Brains: Could Social Segregation Prevent a Proper Development of a Central Auditory Area in a Female Songbird?. PLoS ONE, Public Library of Science, 2008, 3 (5), pp.e2194. ⟨10.1371/journal.pone.0002194⟩. ⟨hal-01303558⟩

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