Little is known about how the brain regulates context-appropriate communication. European starlings produce song in various social contexts. During the breeding season, males with nest sites sing high levels of sexually motivated song in response to a female. Outside of this context, song rates are not affected by female presence. The medial preoptic nucleus (POM) regulates male sexual behavior, and studies in songbirds implicate the POM in sexually motivated song. Recent data suggest that the role of the POM might extend to song produced in other contexts as well. To examine this possibility, effects of bilateral electrolytic lesions of the POM on singing and other behaviors in adult male starlings within sexually relevant and nonsexual contexts were studied. Lesions to the POM exclusively reduced song and nest box-directed behaviors within highly sexually relevant contexts. Unexpectedly, POM lesions increased song in a nonsexual context, suggesting an inhibitory role for the POM in this context. These data suggest that the POM interacts with the song control system so that song occurs in an appropriate social context in response to appropriate stimuli.
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