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J Neurobiol. 1993 Aug;24(8):1045-64.

Role of a telencephalic nucleus in the delayed song learning of socially isolated zebra finches.

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Rockefeller University Field Research Center, Millbrook, New York 12545.


Male zebra finches normally learn their song from adult models during a restricted period of juvenile development. If song models are not available then, juveniles develop an isolate song which can be modified in adulthood. In this report we investigate the features of juvenile experience that underly the timing of song learning. Juvenile males raised in soundproof chambers or in visual isolation from conspecifics developed stable isolate song. However, whereas visual isolate song notes were similar to those of colony-reared males, soundproof chamber isolates included many phonologically abnormal notes in their songs. Despite having stable isolate songs, both groups copied new notes from tutors presented to them in adulthood (2.7 notes per bird for soundproof chamber isolates, 4.4 notes per bird for visual isolates). Old notes were often modified or eliminated. We infer that social interactions with live tutors are normally important for closing the sensitive period for song learning. Lesions of a forebrain nucleus (IMAN) had previously been shown to disrupt juvenile song learning, but not maintenance of adult song for up to 5 weeks after surgery. In this study, colony-reared adult males given bilateral lesions of IMAN retained all their song notes for up to 4-7.5 months after lesioning. However, similar lesions blocked all song note acquisition in adulthood by both visual and soundproof chamber isolates. Other work has shown that intact hearing is necessary for the maintenance of adult zebra finch song. We infer that auditory pathways used for song maintenance and acquisition differ: IMAN is necessary for auditorily guided song acquisition--whether by juveniles or adults--but not for adult auditorily guided song maintenance.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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