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Brain Behav Evol. 2004;63(3):169-80. Epub 2004 Jan 15.

Bigger brains or bigger nuclei? Regulating the size of auditory structures in birds.

Author information

1
Department of Biology, University of Maryland, College Park, Md., USA.

Abstract

Increases in the size of the neuronal structures that mediate specific behaviors are believed to be related to enhanced computational performance. It is not clear, however, what developmental and evolutionary mechanisms mediate these changes, nor whether an increase in the size of a given neuronal population is a general mechanism to achieve enhanced computational ability. We addressed the issue of size by analyzing the variation in the relative number of cells of auditory structures in auditory specialists and generalists. We show that bird species with different auditory specializations exhibit variation in the relative size of their hindbrain auditory nuclei. In the barn owl, an auditory specialist, the hindbrain auditory nuclei involved in the computation of sound location show hyperplasia. This hyperplasia was also found in songbirds, but not in non-auditory specialists. The hyperplasia of auditory nuclei was also not seen in birds with large body weight suggesting that the total number of cells is selected for in auditory specialists. In barn owls, differences observed in the relative size of the auditory nuclei might be attributed to modifications in neurogenesis and cell death. Thus, hyperplasia of circuits used for auditory computation accompanies auditory specialization in different orders of birds.

PMID:
14726625
PMCID:
PMC3269630
DOI:
10.1159/000076242
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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