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Behav Neural Biol. 1986 Nov;46(3):445-71.

Developmental and seasonal changes in canary song and their relation to changes in the anatomy of song-control nuclei.


Young male canaries become sexually mature in late winter, 8-12 months after hatching. During the months between hatching and sexual maturity they develop adult song. The successive stages in the development of adult song are subsong, plastic song, and stable or full song. Once stable song is achieved it lasts for the duration of the breeding season. After the end of the breeding season there is a recurrence of song instability during summer and early fall. This plastic song is followed, once more, by stable song. New song syllables are added to the song of adult male canaries and some of the earlier syllables disappear. The song repertoire sung at 2 years of age is substantially larger, and different, from that sung during the first breeding season, when the birds were 1 year old. A comparable change occurs between the second and third breeding seasons. Most of the syllables acquired by adult males are formed during the summer-fall period of song instability. Developmental and seasonal changes in song are accompanied by anatomical changes in two forebrain nuclei known to be involved in song control, the hyperstriatum ventralis, pars caudalis (HVc), and the robust nucleus of the archistriatum (RA). HVc and RA grow during the subsong and plastic song periods of song development. These nuclei reach adult size by the time stable adult song is first produced, and retain this size during the breeding season. However, the size of HVc and RA diminishes by late summer, when it becomes comparable to that of a 3- to 4-month-old bird. This reduction in size is temporary and has been corrected by the following breeding season. It is suggested that these seasonal changes in volume reflect circuit changes which are under hormonal control, and that these changes are related to processes of learning and, possibly, forgetting. Despite earlier reports of left hemispheric dominance in canary song production, we failed to find any evidence of right-left systematic differences in the size of HVc and RA during development or in adulthood. Various hypotheses relating song learning to changes in the underlying anatomy are offered.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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