Social context-dependent singing-regulated dopamine.
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Like the mammalian striatum, the songbird striatum receives dense dopaminergic input from the midbrain ventral tegmental area-substantia nigra pars compacta complex. The songbird striatum also contains a unique vocal nucleus, Area X, which has been implicated in song learning and social context-dependent song production. Area X shows increased neural firing and activity-dependent gene expression when birds sing, and the level of activation is higher and more variable during undirected singing relative to directed singing to other birds. Here we show in the first report of in vivo microdialysis in awake, behaving songbirds that singing is associated with increased dopamine levels in Area X. Dopamine levels are significantly higher with directed relative to undirected singing. This social context-dependent difference in dopamine levels requires the dopamine transporter, because local in vivo blockade of the transporter caused dopamine levels for undirected singing to increase to levels similar to that for directed singing, eliminating the social context-dependent difference. The increase in dopamine is presumably depolarization and vesicular release dependent, because adding of high K+ increased and removal of Ca2+ increased and decreased extracellular DA levels. Our findings implicate DA and molecules that control DA kinetics in singing behavior and social context-dependent brain function.
Dopamine Plasma Membrane Transport Proteins