Slow NMDA-EPSCs at synapses critical for song development are not required for song learning in zebra finches

Nat Neurosci. 2000 May;3(5):482-8. doi: 10.1038/74857.


Birdsong, like human speech, is learned via auditory experience during a developmentally restricted sensitive period. Within projection neurons of two avian forebrain nuclei, NMDA receptor-mediated EPSCs (NMDA-EPSCs) become fast during song development, a transition posited to limit learning. To discover whether slow NMDA-EPSCs at these synapses are required for learning, we delayed song learning beyond its normal endpoint, post-hatch day (PHD) 65, by raising zebra finches in isolation from song tutors. At PHD45, before learning, isolation delayed NMDA-EPSC maturation, but only transiently. By PHD65, NMDA-EPSCs in isolates were fast and adult-like, yet isolates presented with tutors readily learned song. Thus song learning did not require slow NMDA-EPSCs at synapses critical for song development.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Aging
  • Animals
  • Electrophysiology
  • Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials / physiology*
  • Hearing Loss, Noise-Induced / physiopathology
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Kinetics
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Male
  • N-Methylaspartate / metabolism*
  • Prosencephalon / cytology
  • Prosencephalon / growth & development
  • Prosencephalon / physiology
  • Social Isolation
  • Songbirds / growth & development
  • Songbirds / physiology*
  • Synapses / metabolism*
  • Testosterone / blood
  • Time Factors
  • Vocalization, Animal / physiology*


  • Testosterone
  • N-Methylaspartate