Reliable execution of precise behaviors requires that brain circuits are resilient to variations in neuronal dynamics. Genetic perturbation of the majority of excitatory neurons in HVC, a brain region involved in song production, in adult songbirds with stereotypical songs triggered severe degradation of the song. The song fully recovered within 2 weeks, and substantial improvement occurred even when animals were prevented from singing during the recovery period, indicating that offline mechanisms enable recovery in an unsupervised manner. Song restoration was accompanied by increased excitatory synaptic input to neighboring, unmanipulated neurons in the same brain region. A model inspired by the behavioral and electrophysiological findings suggests that unsupervised single-cell and population-level homeostatic plasticity rules can support the functional restoration after large-scale disruption of networks that implement sequential dynamics. These observations suggest the existence of cellular and systems-level restorative mechanisms that ensure behavioral resilience.

Wang, B., Torok, Z., Duffy, A. et al. Unsupervised restoration of a complex learned behavior after large-scale neuronal perturbation. Nat Neurosci (2024).

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