Robert Liu, PhD (Emory University, Biology)
Joseph Manns, PhD (Emory University, Psychology)
Christopher Rozell, PhD (Georgia Institute of Technology, Electrical and Computer Engineering)
Sam Sober, PhD (Emory University, Biology)
Garrett Stanley, PhD (Georgia Institute of Technology, Biomedical Engineering)
A Behavioral Paradigm for Investigating Auditory Learning in Social versus Nonsocial Contexts
The ability to detect, discriminate, and recognize communication sounds is important for basic social interactions and is a precursor for more complex abilities such as language learning. A central interest in auditory neuroscience is to understand the mechanisms by which the brain learns to do this from experience. Recent evidence suggests that social context may play a significant role in influencing these mechanisms within auditory cortex. One proposed element of social context that may be important is the rewarding effect of interactions between individuals. However, other nonauditory and nonsocial factors that are part of the learning paradigm have also been demonstrated to influence learning mechanisms. Consequently, explicitly testing the role of social versus nonsocial reward while animals learn to perform an auditory task can be hindered by an inability to control for these other factors. The goal of this proposal is to (1) develop such a paradigm by using the reinforcing nature of mouse pups as a social reward and water as a nonsocial reward to condition mice to approach a target sound, (2) characterize the rate of learning in these tasks, and (3) test the necessity of auditory cortex in this learning.