Aromatase inhibition rapidly affects in a reversible manner distinct features of birdsong

Sci Rep. 2016 Aug 30;6:32344. doi: 10.1038/srep32344.


Recent evidence has implicated steroid hormones, specifically estrogens, in the rapid modulation of cognitive processes. Songbirds have been a useful model system in the study of complex cognitive processes including birdsong, a naturally learned vocal behavior regulated by a discrete steroid-sensitive telencephalic circuitry. Singing behavior is known to be regulated by long-term actions of estrogens but rapid steroid modulation of this behavior has never been examined. We investigated if acute actions of estrogens regulate birdsong in canaries (Serinus canaria). In the morning, male canaries sing within minutes after light onset. Birds were injected with fadrozole, a potent aromatase inhibitor, or vehicle within 2-5 minutes after lights on to implement a within-subjects experimental design. This single injection of fadrozole reduced the motivation to sing as well as song acoustic stereotypy, a measure of consistency over song renditions, on the same day. By the next day, however, all song measures that were affected had returned to baseline. This study indicates that estrogens also act in a rapid fashion to regulate two distinct features of song, a learned vocal behavior.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aromatase / genetics
  • Aromatase / metabolism*
  • Aromatase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Canaries / genetics*
  • Canaries / physiology
  • Learning / drug effects
  • Male
  • Singing / genetics*
  • Singing / physiology
  • Songbirds / genetics
  • Songbirds / physiology
  • Testosterone / metabolism
  • Vocalization, Animal / physiology


  • Aromatase Inhibitors
  • Testosterone
  • Aromatase