Neuronal recruitment in adult zebra finch brain during a reproductive cycle

Shay Barkan, Amir Ayali, Fernando Nottebohm, Anat Barnea

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previous studies suggest that adult neurogenesis and neuronal replacement are related to the acquisition of new information. The present study supports this hypothesis by showing that there is an increase in new neuron recruitment in brains of adult male and female zebra finches that coincides with the need to memorize vocalizations of nestlings before they fledge. We counted [ 3H]-Thymidine labeled neurons 40 days after [3H]-Thymidine injections. These counts were made in the parents' brains at the time eggs hatched, at the time juveniles fledged and still needed parental care, and at the time juveniles were already independent. We focused on nidopallium caudate (NC), a brain region which plays a role in sound processing. Recruitment of new NC neurons increased at the time the young fledged, followed by a significant decrease when the young reached independence. We suggest that this increase enables parents to recognize their own young when they are still dependent on parental feeding, yet easily lost among other fledglings in the colony. We saw no such increase in neuronal recruitment in the olfactory bulb, suggesting anatomical specificity for the effect seen in NC. We also found a preliminary, positive correlation between number of fledglings and number of new NC neurons in the parents' brain at fledging, suggesting that the number of neurons recruited is sensitive to the number of young fledged.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)687-701
Number of pages15
JournalDevelopmental Neurobiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - May 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Avian brain
  • Breeding cycle
  • Memory
  • Neuronal recruitment
  • Nidopallium caudale


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