Evidence for opioid involvement in the regulation of song production in male European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris)

Behav Neurosci. 2005 Feb;119(1):245-55. doi: 10.1037/0735-7044.119.1.245.


Many social animals vocalize at high rates, suggesting that vocal communication is highly motivated and rewarding. In songbirds, much is known about the neural control of vocal behavior; however, little is known about neurobiological mechanisms regulating the motivation to communicate. This study examined a possible role for opioid neuropeptides in motivation and reward associated with song production in male European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris). Peripheral opioid blockade facilitated male song production. Furthermore, methionine-enkephalin immunolabeled fiber densities within brain regions in which opioids are known to regulate motivation and reward (i.e., the medial preoptic nucleus and ventral tegmental area) related positively to male song production. These data suggest that song production might be regulated by opioid activity within motivation and reward neural systems.

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

  • Animal Communication*
  • Animals
  • Female
  • Male
  • Motivation*
  • Narcotic Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Narcotics / pharmacology*
  • Neuropeptides
  • Receptors, Opioid / physiology
  • Reinforcement, Psychology
  • Social Behavior*
  • Starlings / physiology*


  • Narcotic Antagonists
  • Narcotics
  • Neuropeptides
  • Receptors, Opioid