The acquisition of new skills by a naïve animal can be facilitated by exposure to a conspecific performing that behavior (i.e., social learning). While visual social learning has been well-studied, the behavioral characteristics and neural mechanisms that support auditory social learning remain uncertain. To explore how social experience facilitates auditory skill acquisition, we developed a paradigm in which naïve Observer gerbils - a highly vocal species that lives naturally in extended families - are exposed to a Demonstrator gerbils that are performing an auditory discrimination task on the other side of an opaque divider to eliminate visual cues. Following this social experience, Observer gerbils acquire the auditory skill more rapidly than controls. I will describe evidence suggesting that auditory cortex is necessary for social facilitation, and that individual neurons display a significant improvement in stimulus discrimination during the period of social exposure. Together, these findings suggest that social cues can play a pivotal role in auditory skill learning.

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