To date, studies that reported seasonal patterns of adult neurogenesis and neuronal recruitment have correlated them to seasonal behaviors as the cause or as a consequence of neuronal changes. The aim of our study was to test this correlation, and to investigate whether there is a seasonal pattern of new neuronal recruitment that is not correlated to behavior. To do this, we used adult female zebra finches (songbirds that are not seasonal breeders), kept them under constant social, behavioral, and spatial environments, and compared neuronal recruitment in their brains during two seasons, under natural and laboratory conditions. Under natural conditions, no significant differences were found in the pattern of new neuronal recruitment across seasons. However, under artificial indoor conditions that imitated the natural conditions, higher neuronal recruitment occurred in late summer (August) compared to early spring (February). Moreover, our data indicate that “mixing” temperature and day length significantly reduces new neuronal recruitment, demonstrating the importance of the natural combination of temperature and day length. Taken together, our findings show, for the first time, that neuroplasticity changes under natural vs. artificial conditions, and demonstrate the importance of both laboratory and field experiments when looking at complex biological systems.
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© 2018, The Author(s).