A relationship between behavior, neurotrophin expression, and new neuron survival.

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2000-07-18

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Abstract

The high vocal center (HVC) controls song production in songbirds and sends a projection to the robust nucleus of the archistriatum (RA) of the descending vocal pathway. HVC receives new neurons in adulthood. Most of the new neurons project to RA and replace other neurons of the same kind. We show here that singing enhances mRNA and protein expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in the HVC of adult male canaries, Serinus canaria. The increased BDNF expression is proportional to the number of songs produced per unit time. Singing-induced BDNF expression in HVC occurs mainly in the RA-projecting neurons. Neuronal survival was compared among birds that did or did not sing during days 31-38 after BrdUrd injection. Survival of new HVC neurons is greater in the singing birds than in the nonsinging birds. A positive causal link between pathway use, neurotrophin expression, and new neuron survival may be common among systems that recruit new neurons in adulthood.

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10.1073/pnas.140222497

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Li, XC, ED Jarvis, B Alvarez Borda, DA Lim and F Nottebohm (2000). A relationship between behavior, neurotrophin expression, and new neuron survival. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 97(15). pp. 8584–8589. 10.1073/pnas.140222497 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/11217.

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Jarvis

Erich David Jarvis

Adjunct Professor in the Deptartment 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 learning orders, such as parrots and hummingbirds, as well as non-vocal learners, such as pigeons and non-human primates. Some of the questions require performing behavior/molecular biology experiments in freely ranging animals, such as hummingbirds in tropical forest of Brazil. Recent results show that in songbirds, parrots and hummingbirds, perception and production of song are accompanied by anatomically distinct patterns of gene expression. All three groups were found to exhibit vocally-activated gene expression in exactly 7 forebrain nuclei that are very similar to each other. These structures for vocal learning and production are thought to have evolved independently within the past 70 million years, since they are absent from interrelated non-vocal learning orders. One structure, Area X of the basal ganglia's striatum in songbirds, shows large differential gene activation depending on the social context in which the bird sings. These differences may reflect a semantic content of song, perhaps similar to human language.

The overall goal of the research is to advance knowledge of the neural mechanisms for vocal learning and basic mechanisms of brain function. These goals are further achieved by combined collaborative efforts with the laboratories of Drs. Mooney and Nowicki at Duke University, who study respectively behavior and electrophysiological aspects of songbird vocal communication.


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