Send to:

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Behav Brain Res. 2011 May 16;219(1):15-22. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2010.12.003. Epub 2010 Dec 13.

Mu-opioid receptor densities are depleted in regions implicated in agonistic and sexual behavior in male European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) defending nest sites and courting females.

Author information

  • 1Department of Zoology, 428 Birge Hall, 430 Lincoln Avenue, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI 53706, USA.


Social status and resource availability can strongly influence individual behavioral responses to conspecifics. In European starlings, males that acquire nest sites sing in response to females and dominate other males. Males without nest sites sing, but not to females, and they do not interact agonistically with other males. Little is known about the neural regulation of status- or resource-appropriate behavioral responses to conspecifics. Opioid neuropeptides are implicated in birdsong and agonistic behavior, suggesting that opioids may underlie differences in the production of these behaviors in males with and without nest sites. Here, we examined densities of immunolabeled mu-opioid receptors in groups of male starlings. Males that defended nest boxes dominated other males and sang at higher rates when presented with a female than males without nest boxes, independent of testosterone concentrations. Multiple regression analyses showed nest box ownership (not agonistic behavior or singing) predicted the optical density of receptor labeling in the medial bed nucleus of stria terminalis, paraventricular nucleus, ventral tegmental area and the medial preoptic nucleus. Compared to males without nest boxes, males with nest boxes had lower densities of immunolabeled mu-opioid receptors in these regions. Singing additionally predicted the area covered by labeling in the ventral tegmental area. The results suggest that elevated opioid activity in these regions suppresses courtship and agonistic behavioral responses to conspecifics in males without nest boxes. The findings are consistent with a dynamic role for opioid receptors in adjusting social behavior so that it is appropriate given the resources available to an individual.

Copyright © 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Elsevier Science Icon for PubMed Central
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk