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Neuron. 1997 Nov;19(5):1049-59.

Localized changes in immediate-early gene regulation during sensory and motor learning in zebra finches.

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Beckman Institute and Department of Cell and Structural Biology, University of Illinois, Urbana 61801, USA.


A complex neural system controls birdsong learning, but its organization is not understood, nor is it known why learning only occurs during a critical period in adolescence. Here, we analyzed developmental regulation in zebra finches of zenk, an immediate-early gene (IEG) implicated in memory consolidation. Basal expression was elevated within auditory telencephalon (specifically, within the caudomedial neostriatum [NCM]) during song acquisition. Expression could be further induced by song playbacks 30 days after hatching but not at 20 days nor in juveniles reared in severe isolation. Singing itself induced zenk in song production nuclei, including Area X, even in adults. Within a compartment of the robust nucleus of the archistriatum (RA), however, this response dwindled as singing matured. These results suggest that the onset of sensory memory storage may be regulated in part at NCM, and motor plasticity may be regulated at RA.

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