Vocal communication develops under social influences that can enhance attention, an important factor in memory formation and perceptual tuning. In songbirds, social conditions can delay sensitive periods of development, overcome learning inhibitions and enable exceptional learning or induce selective learning. However, we do not know how social conditions influence auditory processing in the brain. In the present study, we raised young naive starlings under different social conditions but with the same auditory experience of adult songs, and we compared the effects of these different conditions on the development of the auditory cortex analogue. Several features appeared to be influenced by the social experience, among which the proportion of auditory neuronal sites and the neuronal selectivity. Both physical and social isolation from adult models altered the development of the auditory area in parallel to alterations in vocal development. To our knowledge, this is the first evidence that social deprivation has as much influence on neuronal responsiveness as sensory deprivation.
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