In vivo MR imaging of the seasonal volumetric and functional plasticity of song control nuclei in relation to song output in a female songbird

Neuroimage. 2006 Jul 1;31(3):981-92. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2006.01.005. Epub 2006 Mar 10.


In temperate zone songbird species, seasonal plasticity in the morphological and functional state of brain regions involved in song production occurs in association with seasonal changes in song output. Following MnCl(2)-injections in HVC (used as proper name) of female starlings, in vivo tract-tracing by Manganese Enhanced-Magnetic Resonance Imaging (ME-MRI) provided repeated measures of the volume of two HVC targets, the nucleus robustus arcopallii (RA) and area X, along with measures of the activity of the caudal motor pathway and rostral basal-ganglia pathway that control singing. Mn(2+)-labeling (volume labeled and signal intensity) of both nuclei was dramatically reduced in July (post-breeding season) when birds did not sing, compared to March (breeding season) when birds produced song. Seasonal changes in telencephalon volume did not exceed 4% and were not significant but were surprisingly correlated with individual measures of song rate and song bout length. Although individual song rates were variable in March, all MnCl(2)-injections led to a reliable labeling of area X and RA. In July, delineation of area X was only possible in two birds and RA could be delineated in 50% of the population; its volume had decreased by 46% as compared to March. The birds in which RA could be delineated in July had in March a higher activity of the HVC to area X projection as reflected by the total amount of Mn(2+) accumulated in area X, which suggests unexpected relationships between the two types of HVC projection neurons.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Breeding
  • Cerebellum / anatomy & histology
  • Dominance, Cerebral / physiology
  • Female
  • Image Enhancement*
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional*
  • Molting / physiology
  • Neural Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Periodicity
  • Sound Spectrography
  • Starlings / physiology*
  • Telencephalon / anatomy & histology
  • Vocalization, Animal / physiology*