The pallial basal ganglia pathway modulates the behaviorally driven gene expression of the motor pathway.
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The discrete neural network for songbird vocal communication provides an effective system to study neural mechanisms of learned motor behaviors in vertebrates. This system consists of two pathways--a vocal motor pathway used to produce learned vocalizations and a vocal pallial basal ganglia loop used to learn and modify the vocalizations. However, it is not clear how the loop exerts control over the motor pathway. To study the mechanism, we used expression of the neural activity-induced gene ZENK (or egr-1), which shows singing-regulated expression in a social context-dependent manner: high levels in both pathways when singing undirected and low levels in the lateral part of the loop and in the robust nucleus of the arcopallium (RA) of the motor pathway when singing directed to another animal. Here, we show that there are two parallel interactive parts within the pallial basal ganglia loop, lateral and medial, which modulate singing-driven ZENK expression of the motor pathway nuclei RA and HVC, respectively. Within the loop, the striatal and pallial nuclei appear to have opposing roles; the striatal vocal nucleus lateral AreaX is required for high ZENK expression in its downstream nuclei, particularly during undirected singing, while the pallial vocal lateral magnocellular nucleus of the anterior nidopallium is required for lower expression, particularly during directed singing. These results suggest a dynamic molecular interaction between the basal ganglia pathway and the motor pathway during production of a learned motor behavior.
Early Growth Response Protein 1
Gene Expression Regulation