(1/564) An analysis of the neural representation of birdsong memory.

Songbirds, such as zebra finches, learn their song from a tutor early in life. Forebrain nuclei in the "song system" are important for the acquisition and production of song. Brain regions [including the caudomedial part of the neostriatum (NCM) and of the hyperstriatum ventrale (CMHV)] outside the song system show increased neuronal activation, measured as expression of immediate early genes (IEGs), when zebra finch males are exposed to song. IEG expression in the NCM in response to tutor song is significantly positively correlated with the strength of song learning (i.e., the number of elements copied). Here, we exposed three groups of adult zebra finch males to tutor song, to their own song, or to novel conspecific song. The two control groups were included to examine an alternative explanation of our previous results in terms of variation in predisposed levels of attentiveness. Expression of Zenk, the protein product of the IEG ZENK, was measured in the NCM, CMHV, and hippocampus. There were no significant differences in overall Zenk expression between the three experimental groups. However, there was a significant positive correlation between Zenk expression in the NCM (but not in the other two regions) and strength of song learning in the males that were exposed to the tutor song. There was no such correlation in the other two groups. These results suggest that experience-related neuronal activation is specific to the tutor song and thus unlikely to be a result of differences in attention.  (+info)

(2/564) Limits on reacquisition of song in adult zebra finches exposed to white noise.

Zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) learn a specific song pattern during a sensitive period of development, after which song changes little or not at all. However, recent studies have demonstrated substantial behavioral plasticity in song behavior during adulthood under a range of conditions. The current experiment examined song behavior of adult zebra finches temporarily deprived of auditory feedback by chronic exposure to loud white noise (WN). Long-term exposure to continuous WN resulted in disruption of song similar to that observed after deafening. When auditory feedback was restored by discontinuing WN, birds were either tutored using tape-recorded playback or housed with adult conspecific tutors. No evidence of learning new tutor syllables was observed, and recovery of pre-WN song patterns was very limited after restoration of hearing. However, many birds did reacquire some aspects of their pretreatment song, suggesting an adult form of learning that may retain some of the initial aspects of sensorimotor acquisition of song in which vocalizations are shaped to match a stored template representation. The failure to learn novel song elements and the modest degree of recovery observed overall suggest a limit on plasticity in adult birds that have acquired species-typical song patterns and may reflect an important species difference between zebra finches and Bengalese finches.  (+info)

(3/564) Noradrenergic inputs mediate state dependence of auditory responses in the avian song system.

Norepinephrine (NE) plays a complex role in the behavioral state-dependent regulation of sensory processing. However, the role of forebrain NE action in modulating high-order sensory activity has not been directly addressed. In this study, we take advantage of the discrete, feedforward organization of the avian song system to identify a site and mechanism of NE action underlying state-dependent modulation of sensory processing. We have developed an experimental paradigm in which brief arousal repeatedly suppresses song system auditory responsiveness. Using pharmacological manipulations in vivo, we show that infusion of alpha-adrenergic antagonists into the NIf (nucleus interfacialis of the nidopallium), an auditory forebrain area, blocks this state-dependent modulation. We also demonstrate dose-dependent enhancement and suppression of song system auditory response properties by NE and adrenergic agonists. Our results demonstrate that noradrenergic release in a single forebrain area is a mechanism underlying behavioral state-dependent regulation of auditory processing in a neural system specialized for vocal learning.  (+info)

(4/564) The energetic cost of variations in wing span and wing asymmetry in the zebra finch Taeniopygia guttata.

Asymmetry is a difference in the sizes of bilaterally paired structures. Wing asymmetry may have an effect on the kinematics of flight, with knock-on effects for the energetic cost of flying. In this study the 13C-labelled bicarbonate technique was used to measure the energy expended during the flight of zebra finches Taeniopygia guttata, prior to and after experimental manipulation to generate asymmetry and a change in wing span by trimming the primary feathers. In addition, simultaneous high-speed video footage enabled differences in flight kinematics such as flight speed, wing amplitude, up- and downstroke duration and wing beat frequency to be examined. In 10 individuals, the primary feathers on the right wing were trimmed first, by 0.5 cm, and then by an additional 0.5 cm in six of these individuals. In a separate 'control' group (N=7), approximately 0.25 cm was trimmed off the primary feathers of both wings, to produce the same reduction in wing span as 0.5 cm trimmed from one wing, while maintaining symmetry. When birds were manipulated to become asymmetric they maintained flight speed. They also increased the left wing amplitude and decreased the right up- and downstroke durations to counteract the changes in wing shape, which meant that they had an increase in wing beat frequency. When the wing area was reduced while maintaining symmetry, birds flew with slower flight speed. In this case wing amplitude did not change and wing upstroke slightly decreased, causing an increased wing beat frequency. The mean flight cost in the pre-manipulated birds was 1.90+/-0.1 W. There was a slight increase in flight cost with both of the asymmetry manipulations (0.5 cm, increase of 0.04 W; 1.0 cm, increase of 0.12 W), neither of which reached statistical significance. There was, however, a significantly increased flight cost when the wing span was reduced without causing asymmetry (increase of 0.45 W; paired t-test T=2.3, P=0.03).  (+info)

(5/564) Modulation power and phase spectrum of natural sounds enhance neural encoding performed by single auditory neurons.

We examined the neural encoding of synthetic and natural sounds by single neurons in the auditory system of male zebra finches by estimating the mutual information in the time-varying mean firing rate of the neuronal response. Using a novel parametric method for estimating mutual information with limited data, we tested the hypothesis that song and song-like synthetic sounds would be preferentially encoded relative to other complex, but non-song-like synthetic sounds. To test this hypothesis, we designed two synthetic stimuli: synthetic songs that matched the power of spectral-temporal modulations but lacked the modulation phase structure of zebra finch song and noise with uniform band-limited spectral-temporal modulations. By defining neural selectivity as relative mutual information, we found that the auditory system of songbirds showed selectivity for song-like sounds. This selectivity increased in a hierarchical manner along ascending processing stages in the auditory system. Midbrain neurons responded with highest information rates and efficiency to synthetic songs and thus were selective for the spectral-temporal modulations of song. Primary forebrain neurons showed increased information to zebra finch song and synthetic song equally over noise stimuli. Secondary forebrain neurons responded with the highest information to zebra finch song relative to other stimuli and thus were selective for its specific modulation phase relationships. We also assessed the relative contribution of three response properties to this selectivity: (1) spiking reliability, (2) rate distribution entropy, and (3) bandwidth. We found that rate distribution and bandwidth but not reliability were responsible for the higher average information rates found for song-like sounds.  (+info)

(6/564) Diet quality and resource allocation in the zebra finch.

We investigated the effect of diet quality on resource allocation in zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) by providing females with a high-quality (HQ) or low-quality (LQ) diet for six weeks prior to pairing, and continuing these diets during egg laying and chick rearing. Diet treatments were then reversed and the experiment repeated. When females laid on the HQ diet, egg mass increased with laying order, but the reverse was true on the LQ diet. Females laid significantly more male eggs on the LQ diet compared with on the HQ diet. In addition, female eggs were more frequent at the end of the clutch when on the HQ diet and at the beginning of the clutch when on the LQ diet. These differences in the primary sex ratio are in line with predictions from sex allocation theory, since in this species females are more vulnerable to nutritional stress than males.  (+info)

(7/564) Birds sacrifice oxidative protection for reproduction.

Oxidative metabolism has reactive oxygen species (ROS) as unavoidable by-products, and the damage ROS inflicts on DNA, proteins and lipids is considered to be a major agent of senescence. Increasing reproductive effort accelerates senescence, but whether reproductive effort is increased at the expense of protection against oxidative damage has not yet been tested. We manipulated reproductive effort in zebra finches through brood size manipulation and measured the activity of two major antioxidant enzymes (superoxide dismutase (SOD) and glutathione peroxidase (GPx)) in the pectoral muscle after 19-20 days of brood rearing. Oxidative stress is reflected by the balance between oxidative protection and ROS exposure, and we therefore scaled SOD and GPx activity to daily energy expenditure (DEE) as an index of ROS production. SOD and GPx activity decreased with increasing brood size by 28% and 24%, respectively. This effect was identical in the two sexes, but arose in different ways: males did not change their DEE, but had lower absolute enzyme activity, and females increased their DEE, but did not change absolute enzyme activity. This result suggests that senescence acceleration by increased reproductive effort is at least in part mediated by oxidative stress.  (+info)

(8/564) Endocannabinoids link feeding state and auditory perception-related gene expression.

Singing by adult male zebra finches is a learned behavior important for courtship, kin recognition, and nest defense (Zann, 1996) and is inhibited by both brief periods of limited food availability and systemic injection of cannabinoids. These similar effects on singing, combined with increasing evidence for endocannabinoid involvement in feeding behavior, led us to evaluate a possible shared mechanism. We found that limited food availability both reduces singing in a cannabinoid antagonist-reversible manner and increases levels of the endocannabinoid 2-arachidonyl glycerol in various brain regions including the caudal telencephalon, an area that contains auditory telencephalon including the L2 subfield of L (L2) and caudal medial nidopallium (NCM). Development and use of an anti-zebra finch cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1) antibody demonstrates distinct, dense cannabinoid receptor expression within song regions including Area X, lMAN (lateral magnocellular nucleus of anterior nidopallium), HVC, RA (robust nucleus of arcopallium), and L2. NCM receives L2 projections and is implicated in integration of auditory information. Activity in this area, determined through expression of the transcription factor ZENK, is increased after exposure to unfamiliar song. Because previous work has shown that these novel song-stimulated increases in NCM activity are mitigated by cannabinoid exposure, we tested and found that similar effects on ZENK expression are produced by limiting food. Limited food-related reductions in the activity of NCM neurons were reversed by the cannabinoid antagonist SR141716A (N-piperidino-5-(4-chlorophenyl)-1-(2,4-dichlorophenyl)-4-methylpyrazole-3-carbox amide), implicating CB1 cannabinoid receptor involvement. Taken together, these experiments indicate a link between feeding state and gene expression related to auditory perception that is mediated by endocannabinoid signaling.  (+info)