Targeted neuronal death affects neuronal replacement and vocal behavior in adult songbirds

Neuron. 2000 Feb;25(2):481-92. doi: 10.1016/s0896-6273(00)80910-1.


In the high vocal center (HVC) of adult songbirds, increases in spontaneous neuronal replacement correlate with song changes and with cell death. We experimentally induced death of specific HVC neuron types in adult male zebra finches using targeted photolysis. Induced death of a projection neuron type that normally turns over resulted in compensatory replacement of the same type. Induced death of the normally nonreplaced type did not stimulate their replacement. In juveniles, death of the latter type increased recruitment of the replaceable kind. We infer that neuronal death regulates the recruitment of replaceable neurons. Song deteriorated in some birds only after elimination of replaceable neurons. Behavioral deficits were transient and followed by variable degrees of recovery. This raises the possibility that induced neuronal replacement can restore a learned behavior.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Brain / cytology
  • Brain / physiology
  • Cell Death / physiology
  • Cell Division / physiology
  • Learning / physiology
  • Male
  • Nerve Degeneration / chemically induced
  • Nerve Degeneration / physiopathology
  • Neurons / cytology*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Porphyrins
  • Songbirds / physiology*
  • Vocalization, Animal / physiology*


  • Porphyrins
  • chlorin