Modeling birdsong production and control

Prof. Coen Elemans

May 8, 2012, 8 a.m. S2 416

Like human infants, most songbirds acquire their beautiful songs by imitation. They can generate an incredible range of sounds that are controlled by complicated neural networks driving the uniquely avian sound-producing organ: the syrinx. To understand how neural signals are translated into acoustic signals, I study the neuromuscular control and biomechanics of sound production in the syrinx. Instead of working from the brain down to the vocal organ, my aim is to define neural control parameters and constraints by understanding the function of the syrinx. I use a variety of in vivo and in vitro experimental techniques such as electro- and muscle physiology and am developing a preparation to study sound production in vitro. Hand in hand with experimental work, we now plan to also use theoretical approaches to understand neural control by developing mathematical models of sound production.