Artificial light at night increases recruitment of new neurons and differentially affects various brain regions in female zebra finches

Stan Moaraf, Rachel Heiblum, Yulia Vistoropsky, Monika Okuliarová, Michal Zeman, Anat Barnea

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite growing evidence that demonstrate adverse effects of artificial light at night (ALAN) on many species, relatively little is known regarding its effects on brain plasticity in birds. We recently showed that although ALAN increases cell proliferation in brains of birds, neuronal densities in two brain regions decreased, indicating neuronal death, which might be due to mortality of newly produced neurons or of existing ones. Therefore, in the present study we studied the effect of long-term ALAN on the recruitment of newborn neurons into their target regions in the brain. Accordingly, we exposed zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) to 5 lux ALAN, and analysed new neuronal recruitment and total neuronal densities in several brain regions. We found that ALAN increased neuronal recruitment, possibly as a compensatory response to ALAN-induced neuronal death, and/or due to increased nocturnal locomotor activity caused by sleep disruption. Moreover, ALAN also had a differential temporal effect on neuronal densities, because hippocampus was more sensitive to ALAN and its neuronal densities were more affected than in other brain regions. Nocturnal melatonin levels under ALAN were significantly lower compared to controls, indicating that very low ALAN intensities suppress melatonin not only in nocturnal, but also in diurnal species.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6140
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number17
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Artificial light at night (ALAN)
  • Birds
  • Brain plasticity
  • Hippocampus (HC)
  • Medial striatum (MSt)
  • Melatonin
  • Neuronal densities
  • New neuronal recruitment
  • Nidopallium caudale (NC)
  • Zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata)


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