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J Neurosci. 2011 Nov 23;31(47):16958-68. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2971-11.2011.

Adult neuron addition to the zebra finch song motor pathway correlates with the rate and extent of recovery from botox-induced paralysis of the vocal muscles.

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  • 1Queens College, City University of New York, Flushing, New York 11367, USA. carolyn.pytte@qc.cuny.edu


In adult songbirds, neurons are continually incorporated into the telencephalic nucleus HVC (used as a proper name), a premotor region necessary for the production of learned vocalizations. Previous studies have demonstrated that neuron addition to HVC is highest when song is most variable: in juveniles during song learning, in seasonally singing adults during peaks in plasticity that precede the production of new song components, or during seasonal reestablishment of a previously learned song. These findings suggest that neuron addition provides motor flexibility for the transition from a variable song to a target song. Here we test the association between the quality of song structure and HVC neuron addition by experimentally manipulating syringeal muscle control with Botox, which produces a transient partial paralysis. We show that the quality of song structure covaries with new neuron addition to HVC. Both the magnitude of song distortion and the rate of song recovery after syringeal Botox injections were correlated with the number of new neurons incorporated into HVC. We suggest that the quality of song structure is either a cause or consequence of the number of new neurons added to HVC. Birds with naturally high rates of neuron addition may have had the greatest success in recovering song. Alternatively, or in addition, new neuron survival in the song motor pathway may be regulated by the quality of song-generated feedback as song regains its original stereotyped structure. Present results are the first to show a relationship between peripheral muscle control and adult neuron addition to cortical premotor circuits.

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