Changes in stereotyped central motor patterns controlling vocalization are induced by peripheral nerve injury

Behav Neural Biol. 1992 Jan;57(1):67-78. doi: 10.1016/0163-1047(92)90768-y.


Adult male zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata), as closed-ended learners, normally crystallize their songs at 90 days of age, and the song remains fixed throughout life (Price, 1979). We show that injuring the tracheosyringeal nerve(s) (each of which innervates the ipsilateral half of the syrinx, the avian vocal organ) results in a short-term deficit in the syllables forming adult male song; this deficit disappears after ts nerve regeneration. However, when adult males were followed for a period of several weeks after unilateral tracheosyringeal nerve injury, long-term changes occurred in the temporal patterning of song. Syllables were deleted, remaining portions of the song were linked, and new syllables were added. Syllables with call-like morphology were less likely to be deleted from and more likely to be added to the song. Deletions were most often contiguous chunks of syllables. Changes in the temporal patterning of song occurred during specific periods following nerve injury, were completed within 100 days after nerve transection, and were not dependent upon regeneration of the ts nerve. The resulting newly formed song patterns were stable, remaining unchanged up to 1 year later. The ability of adult male zebra finches to make specific types of changes to crystallized song indicates that some form of vocal plasticity remains even after song learning is completed, though this plasticity may be restricted to a subset of song characteristics. The limitations on the types of changes that are possible may reflect how song is centrally organized.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animal Communication
  • Animals
  • Birds / physiology*
  • Male
  • Nerve Regeneration / physiology
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Peripheral Nerves / physiology*
  • Sound Spectrography
  • Stereotyped Behavior / physiology*
  • Trachea / innervation*
  • Vocal Cords / innervation*
  • Vocalization, Animal / physiology*