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J Neurobiol. 2003 Mar;54(4):593-603.

Seasonal regulation of NMDA receptor NR2B mRNA in the adult canary song system.

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  • 1Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, University of Rochester, Rochester, New York 14627, USA.


Developmental changes in the composition and function of N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors (NMDARs) are believed to regulate neural plasticity. For example, in songbirds, vocal learning entails NMDAR activation, and the sensitive period for such learning in zebra finches (ZFs) parallels developmental changes in NMDAR density and phenotype within several song-related brain regions. In contrast to ZFs, canaries exhibit vocal plasticity recurrently throughout adulthood, prompted by seasonal changes in day length and testosterone (T) levels. We used in situ hybridization to determine if such changes in photoperiod affect NMDAR subunit expression in adult canaries. Birds were sacrificed while on short days (SD) when T levels were low, or on long days (LD) when T levels were high. Transcript levels for the constitutive NMDAR subunit (NR1) and two modulatory subunits (NR2A, NR2B) were measured in four song control nuclei: lMAN, Area X, HVc, and RA. NR1 and NR2A mRNA levels were comparable in SD and LD groups in all four song regions studied. However, NR2B mRNA levels within lMAN and RA were significantly higher in SD than in LD birds. Photoperiod did not affect NR2B transcript levels in Area X, HVc, or a nonsong region just lateral to lMAN. Our data support the hypothesis that changes in NMDAR subunit expression may contribute to the neural and behavioral reorganization that accompanies seasonal song remodeling in adulthood.

Copyright 2003 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Neurobiol 54: 593-603, 2003

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