Cendra Agulhon



Conference room R229
Campus Saint Germain des Prés de l'Université de Paris, 45 rue des Saints Pères, Paris 6e


17 Dec 2021


11 h 30 min - 23 h 30 min


Neuroscience Seminar Series

The challenges of learning a complex skill – lessons from songbirds, by Dina Lipkind

Summary The challenges of learning a complex skill – lessons from songbirds

How does one learn a complex motor skill with many constituent parts, such as a song, a dance, a language, or a sports game? In both humans and animals, learning skilled behaviors involves a gradual approximation of an internal representation of the desired behavior, rather than on external rewards or punishments. Finding a way to adjust one’s own behavior to match a complex internal goal is a computationally daunting task; it may be more efficient not to treat the entire behavior as a single goal, but instead to divide it into sub-goals and use distinct subroutines to attain each. We find that young Zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) employ such “divide and conquer” approach to imitate the elaborate songs of adult individuals, using a combination of strategies for learning distinct levels of their song hierarchy. This may be an adaptation to the efficient learning of a complex vocal skill within a relatively short developmental time window.

Short Biography I obtained a PhD in Zoology from Tel Aviv University, and did my post-doctoral studies in the Laboratory of Vocal Learning of Ofer Tchernichovski at Hunter College, the City University of New York. I am currently an Assistant Professor at York College of The City University of New York. Research in my lab focuses on identifying the algorithms employed by animals and humans for the learning of complex skilled behaviors, using vocal learning in zebra finches as a model system.

Health pass and mask are required to attend