Selective impairment of song learning following lesions of a forebrain nucleus in the juvenile zebra finch

Behav Neural Biol. 1990 Jan;53(1):51-63. doi: 10.1016/0163-1047(90)90797-a.


Area X, a large sexually dimorphic nucleus in the avian ventral forebrain, is part of a highly discrete system of interconnected nuclei that have been implicated in either song learning or adult song production. Previously, this nucleus has been included in the song system because of its substantial connections with other vocal control nuclei, and because its volume is positively correlated with the capacity for song. In order to directly assess the role of Area X in song behavior, this nucleus was bilaterally lesioned in both juvenile and adult zebra finches, using ibotenic acid. We report here that lesioning Area X disrupts normal song development in juvenile birds, but does not affect the production of stereotyped song by adult birds. Although juvenile-lesioned birds were consistently judged as being in earlier stages of vocal development than age-matched controls, they continued to produce normal song-like vocalizations. Thus, unlike the lateral magnocellular nucleus of the anterior neostriatum, another avian forebrain nucleus implicated in song learning, Area X does not seem to be necessary for sustaining production of juvenile song. Rather, the behavioral results suggest Area X is important for either the acquisition of a song model or the improvement of song through vocal practice.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Birds / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Imitative Behavior / physiology
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Mental Recall / physiology*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Pitch Discrimination / physiology
  • Sexual Maturation / physiology*
  • Sound Spectrography
  • Telencephalon / physiology*
  • Vocalization, Animal / physiology*