Neuroplasticity in the vocal control system of songbirds is strongly influenced by seasonal fluctuations in circulating testosterone. These seasonally plastic telencephalic structures are implicated in the learning and production of song in songbirds. The role of the indoleamine melatonin in seasonal adaptations in birds has remained unclear. In this experiment, European starlings were castrated to remove the neuromodulating activity of gonadal steroids and were exposed to different photoperiods to induce reproductive states characteristic of different seasonal conditions. Long days increased the volume of the song-control nucleus high vocal center compared with its volume on short days. Exogenous melatonin attenuated the long-day-induced volumetric increase in high vocal center and also decreased the volume of another song-control nucleus, area X. This effect was observed regardless of reproductive state. To our knowledge, this is the first direct evidence of a role for melatonin in functional plasticity within the central nervous system of vertebrates.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Number of pages||6|
|Journal||Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America|
|State||Published - Apr 13 1999|
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