Response biases in auditory forebrain regions of female songbirds following exposure to sexually relevant variation in male song

Timothy Q. Gentner, Stewart H. Hulse, Deborah Duffy, Gregory F. Ball

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

In many species of songbirds, individual variation between the songs of competing males is correlated with female behavioral preferences. The neural mechanisms of song based female preference in songbirds are not known. Working with female European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris), we used immunocytochemistry for ZENK protein to localize forebrain regions that respond to sexually relevant variation in conspecific male song. The number of ZENK-ir cells in ventral caudo-medial neostriatum [NCMv] was significantly higher in females exposed to longer songs than in those exposed to shorter songs, whereas variation in the total duration of song exposure yielded no significant differences in ZENK expression. ZENK expression in caudomedial ventral hyperstriatum [cmHV] was uniformly high in all subjects, and did not vary significantly among the three groups. These results suggest that subregions of NCM in female starlings are tuned to variation in male song length, or to song features correlated therewith. Female starlings exhibit robust behavioral preferences for longer over shorter male songs (Gentner and Hulse; Anim Behav 59:443-458, 2000). Therefore, the results of this study strongly implicate NCM in at least a portion of the perceptual processes underlying the complex natural behavior of female choice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)48-58
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neurobiology
Volume46
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2001

Keywords

  • Auditory perception
  • Birdsong
  • European starling
  • Female choice mechanisms
  • Sturnus vulgaris
  • ZENK

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

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