The catecholaminergic cell groups of the brainstem play an important role in the regulation of motivated behavior, including reproductive behavior. In songbirds, these cell groups project to telencephalic nuclei involved in singing and contain steroid hormone receptors, implicating them in the seasonal regulation of song. Whether these nuclei are involved in the activation of song on a short-term, moment-to-moment basis is unknown. In this study, free-living male song sparrows (Melospiza melodia) were subjected to simulated territorial intrusion (STI), which stimulates territorial singing. The resulting fos-like immunoreactivity (FLI) was quantified in two HVc- and RA-projecting catecholaminergic regions of the brainstem: the area ventralis of Tsai (AVT) and the midbrain central gray (GCt). Males subjected to STI showed more FLI in both of these regions than control males. In addition, FLI in both nuclei was correlated positively with the number of songs sung in response to STI. The number of flights directed at the intruder was correlated with FLI in AVT but not GCt. These results suggest a role for AVT and GCt, and thus possibly catecholamines, in the regulation of territorial behavior in songbirds.
- Tyrosine hydroxylase
- Ventral tegmental area
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience