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J Neurosci. 2007 Jun 20;27(25):6810-4.

Auditory feedback and song production do not regulate seasonal growth of song control circuits in adult white-crowned sparrows.

Author information

  • 1Department of Psychology, and The Virginia Merrill Bloedel Hearing Research Center, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195-1525, USA.

Erratum in

  • J Neurosci. 2007 Jul 4;27(27):7361.


An important area of research in neuroscience is understanding what properties of brain structure and function are stimulated by sensory experience and behavioral performance. We tested the roles of experience and behavior in seasonal plasticity of the neural circuits that regulate learned song behavior in adult songbirds. Neurons in these circuits receive auditory input and show selective auditory responses to conspecific song. We asked whether auditory input or song production contribute to seasonal growth of telencephalic song nuclei. Adult male Gambel's white-crowned sparrows were surgically deafened, which eliminates auditory input and greatly reduces song production. These birds were then exposed to photoperiod and hormonal conditions that regulate the growth of song nuclei. We measured the volumes of the nuclei HVC, robust nucleus of arcopallium (RA), and area X at 7 and 30 d after exposure to long days plus testosterone in deafened and normally hearing birds. We also assessed song production and examined protein kinase C (PKC) expression because previous research reported that immunostaining for PKC increases transiently after deafening. Deafening did not delay or block the growth of the song nuclei to their full breeding-condition size. PKC activity in RA was not altered by deafening in the sparrows. Song continued to be well structured for up to 10 months after deafening, but song production decreased almost eightfold. These results suggest that neither auditory input nor high rates of song production are necessary for seasonal growth of the adult song control system in this species.

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