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Introducing Songbirds as a Model System for Epilepsy Research

Margoliash, Daniel*†; van Drongelen, Wim‡§; Kohrman, Michael‡§

Journal of Clinical Neurophysiology: December 2010 - Volume 27 - Issue 6 - p 433-437
doi: 10.1097/WNP.0b013e3181fe06f6
Invited Review
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It has been broadly recognized that the avian forebrain shares extensive homology with neocortex, and the two share similar patterns of input, local circuit, and output connectivity. Some songbird species also exhibit a full range of vigilance states and ultradian patterns in gross (EEG) potentials that are commonly seen in mammals. The avian forebrain is organized in a field and nuclear fashion, giving great technical advantage especially when manipulating specialized regions such as forebrain song system nuclei associated with vocal learning that would be hard to achieve in cortex. Songbirds are a model system for studying developmental processes at multiple levels of analysis, including but not limited to mechanistic electrophysiological descriptions of vocal production and vocal learning process. Recent behavioral evidence establishes a role for sleep in the vocal learning process of birds. This is likely to be related to the observed neuronal replay during sleep in songbirds and its emergence at the onset of exposure to a song tutor and formation of an auditory memory. These features of birdsong learning and the song system position it as an attractive model system for systems-level epilepsy research, especially for pediatric epilepsies and for those that are expressed during sleep and affect language development.

From the Departments of *Organismal Biology and Anatomy, †Psychology, ‡Pediatrics, and §Neurology, The University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.

Supported, in part, by Charles W. Palmer Family Foundation grant (to D.M.), the National Institutes of Mental Health grant MH59831 (to D.M.), National Institutes on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders grant DC007206 (to D.M.), and Dr. Ralph and Marian Falk Medical Research Trust grant (to W.V.D. and M.K.).

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Daniel Margoliash, Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy, The University of Chicago, 1027 E. 57th St., Chicago, IL 60637, U.S.A.; e-mail: dan@bigbird.uchicago.edu.

Copyright © 2010 American Clinical Neurophysiology Society