Molecular profiling of the developing avian telencephalon: regional timing and brain subdivision continuities.

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In our companion study (Jarvis et al. [2013] J Comp Neurol. doi: 10.1002/cne.23404) we used quantitative brain molecular profiling to discover that distinct subdivisions in the avian pallium above and below the ventricle and the associated mesopallium lamina have similar molecular profiles, leading to a hypothesis that they may form as continuous subdivisions around the lateral ventricle. To explore this hypothesis, here we profiled the expression of 16 genes at eight developmental stages. The genes included those that define brain subdivisions in the adult and some that are also involved in brain development. We found that phyletic hierarchical cluster and linear regression network analyses of gene expression profiles implicated single and mixed ancestry of these brain regions at early embryonic stages. Most gene expression-defined pallial subdivisions began as one ventral or dorsal domain that later formed specific folds around the lateral ventricle. Subsequently a clear ventricle boundary formed, partitioning them into dorsal and ventral pallial subdivisions surrounding the mesopallium lamina. These subdivisions each included two parts of the mesopallium, the nidopallium and hyperpallium, and the arcopallium and hippocampus, respectively. Each subdivision expression profile had a different temporal order of appearance, similar in timing to the order of analogous cell types of the mammalian cortex. Furthermore, like the mammalian pallium, expression in the ventral pallial subdivisions became distinct during prehatch development, whereas the dorsal portions did so during posthatch development. These findings support the continuum hypothesis of avian brain subdivision development around the ventricle and influence hypotheses on homologies of the avian pallium with other vertebrates.





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Chen, Chun-Chun, Candace M Winkler, Andreas R Pfenning and Erich D Jarvis (2013). Molecular profiling of the developing avian telencephalon: regional timing and brain subdivision continuities. J Comp Neurol, 521(16). pp. 3666–3701. 10.1002/cne.23406 Retrieved from

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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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