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      An analysis of the neural representation of birdsong memory.

      The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience

      physiology, Vocalization, Animal, cytology, Neostriatum, Memory, Male, Learning, Immunohistochemistry, methods, Image Enhancement, Hippocampus, Finches, Basal Ganglia, Animals, Analysis of Variance

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          Songbirds, such as zebra finches, learn their song from a tutor early in life. Forebrain nuclei in the "song system" are important for the acquisition and production of song. Brain regions [including the caudomedial part of the neostriatum (NCM) and of the hyperstriatum ventrale (CMHV)] outside the song system show increased neuronal activation, measured as expression of immediate early genes (IEGs), when zebra finch males are exposed to song. IEG expression in the NCM in response to tutor song is significantly positively correlated with the strength of song learning (i.e., the number of elements copied). Here, we exposed three groups of adult zebra finch males to tutor song, to their own song, or to novel conspecific song. The two control groups were included to examine an alternative explanation of our previous results in terms of variation in predisposed levels of attentiveness. Expression of Zenk, the protein product of the IEG ZENK, was measured in the NCM, CMHV, and hippocampus. There were no significant differences in overall Zenk expression between the three experimental groups. However, there was a significant positive correlation between Zenk expression in the NCM (but not in the other two regions) and strength of song learning in the males that were exposed to the tutor song. There was no such correlation in the other two groups. These results suggest that experience-related neuronal activation is specific to the tutor song and thus unlikely to be a result of differences in attention.

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