Lateralized activation of Cluster N in the brains of migratory songbirds.

Abstract

Cluster N is a cluster of forebrain regions found in night-migratory songbirds that shows high activation of activity-dependent gene expression during night-time vision. We have suggested that Cluster N may function as a specialized night-vision area in night-migratory birds and that it may be involved in processing light-mediated magnetic compass information. Here, we investigated these ideas. We found a significant lateralized dominance of Cluster N activation in the right hemisphere of European robins (Erithacus rubecula). Activation predominantly originated from the contralateral (left) eye. Garden warblers (Sylvia borin) tested under different magnetic field conditions and under monochromatic red light did not show significant differences in Cluster N activation. In the fairly sedentary Sardinian warbler (Sylvia melanocephala), which belongs to the same phyolgenetic clade, Cluster N showed prominent activation levels, similar to that observed in garden warblers and European robins. Thus, it seems that Cluster N activation occurs at night in all species within predominantly migratory groups of birds, probably because such birds have the capability of switching between migratory and sedentary life styles. The activation studies suggest that although Cluster N is lateralized, as is the dependence on magnetic compass orientation, either Cluster N is not involved in magnetic processing or the magnetic modulations of the primary visual signal, forming the basis for the currently supported light-dependent magnetic compass mechanism, are relatively small such that activity-dependent gene expression changes are not sensitive enough to pick them up.

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Published Version (Please cite this version)

10.1111/j.1460-9568.2007.05350.x

Publication Info

Liedvogel, Miriam, Gesa Feenders, Kazuhiro Wada, Nikolaus F Troje, Erich D Jarvis and Henrik Mouritsen (2007). Lateralized activation of Cluster N in the brains of migratory songbirds. Eur J Neurosci, 25(4). pp. 1166–1173. 10.1111/j.1460-9568.2007.05350.x Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/11234.

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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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