Motor - auditory interactions for listening and learning

A classical view is that sensation begets movement, which implies a flow of information from sensory to motor regions of the brain. However, the flow of information from motor to sensory regions also is critical to perception and motor learning. Motor to auditory interactions are especially important to hearing, because they can serve to suppress responsiveness to self-generated sounds while boosting sensitivity to unexpected sounds arising from sources in the environment. Motor to auditory interactions are also thought to facilitate the learning of sound-generating behaviors, such as speech and musicianship, by conveying a motor-related prediction of the auditory consequences of the ensuing movement. The brain can then compare this predictive signal to movement-related auditory feedback to generate an error signal that can guide motor learning. The circuit, cellular and synaptic mechanisms that mediate such motor to auditory interactions in the vertebrate brain are poorly understood. I will discuss research from our group in both songbirds and mice that use a variety of methods, including in vivo cellular imaging, electrophysiology, viral gene transfer and optogenetics, to map, monitor and manipulate motor to auditory pathways important to auditory processing and vocal motor learning. These studies reveal features of central brain organization that are likely to be relevant to human auditory function, especially in the context of speech perception and learning.