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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2000 Jul 18;97(15):8584-9.

A relationship between behavior, neurotrophin expression, and new neuron survival.

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The Rockefeller University, 1230 York Avenue, New York, NY 10021; and Department of Neurobiology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710, USA.


The high vocal center (HVC) controls song production in songbirds and sends a projection to the robust nucleus of the archistriatum (RA) of the descending vocal pathway. HVC receives new neurons in adulthood. Most of the new neurons project to RA and replace other neurons of the same kind. We show here that singing enhances mRNA and protein expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in the HVC of adult male canaries, Serinus canaria. The increased BDNF expression is proportional to the number of songs produced per unit time. Singing-induced BDNF expression in HVC occurs mainly in the RA-projecting neurons. Neuronal survival was compared among birds that did or did not sing during days 31-38 after BrdUrd injection. Survival of new HVC neurons is greater in the singing birds than in the nonsinging birds. A positive causal link between pathway use, neurotrophin expression, and new neuron survival may be common among systems that recruit new neurons in adulthood.

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