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J Neurobiol. 2005 Nov;65(2):179-91.

Song tutoring triggers CaMKII phosphorylation within a specialized portion of the avian basal ganglia.

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  • 1Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, 106 Meliora Hall, University of Rochester, River Campus, Rochester, New York 14627, USA.

Abstract

In several songbird species, a specialized anterior forebrain pathway (AFP) that includes part of the avian basal ganglia has been implicated specifically in song learning. To further elucidate cellular mechanisms and circuitry involved in vocal learning, we used quantitative immunoblot analysis to determine if early song tutoring promotes within the AFP phosphorylation of calcium/calmodulin-dependent kinase II (CaMKII), a multifunctional kinase whose phosphorylation at threonine 286 is critical for many forms of neural plasticity and behavioral learning. We report that in young male zebra finches likely to have begun the process of song acquisition, brief tutoring by a familiar conspecific adult promotes a dramatic increase in levels of phosphorylated CaMKII (pCaMKII) in Area X, the striatal/pallidal component of the AFP. In contrast, pCaMKII levels in this region were not elevated if 1) the tutor did not sing, 2) the tutor sang but was visually isolated from the pupil, or 3) the tutor was an unfamiliar adult. In young males that had not previously heard any conspecific song, first exposure to a song tutor produced a more modest, but significant rise in pCaMKII levels. Young females (who do not develop song behavior) did not exhibit any effect of tutoring on pCaMKII levels in that portion of the basal ganglia that corresponds to Area X in males. These data are consistent with the hypothesis that Area X participates in encoding and/or attaching reward value to a representation of tutor song that is accessed later to guide motor learning.

PMID:
16114029
DOI:
10.1002/neu.20198
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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