For whom the bird sings: context-dependent gene expression.
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Male zebra finches display two song behaviors: directed and undirected singing. The two differ little in the vocalizations produced but greatly in how song is delivered. "Directed" song is usually accompanied by a courtship dance and is addressed almost exclusively to females. "Undirected" song is not accompanied by the dance and is produced when the male is in the presence of other males, alone, or outside a nest occupied by its mate. Here, we show that the anterior forebrain vocal pathway contains medial and lateral "cortical-basal ganglia" subdivisions that have differential ZENK gene activation depending on whether the bird sings female-directed or undirected song. Differences also occur in the vocal output nucleus, RA. Thus, although these two vocal behaviors are very similar, their brain activation patterns are dramatically different.
Gene Expression Regulation
Sexual Behavior, Animal
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Adjunct Professor in the Dept. of Neurobiology
Dr. Jarvis' laboratory studies the neurobiology of vocal communication. Emphasis is placed on the molecular pathways involved in the perception and production of learned vocalizations. They use an integrative approach that combines behavioral, anatomical, electrophysiological and molecular biological techniques. The main animal model used is songbirds, one of the few vertebrate groups that evolved the ability to learn vocalizations. The generality of the discoveries is tested in other vocal