Delayed development of song control nuclei in the zebra finch is related to behavioral development

J Comp Neurol. 1986 Mar 8;245(2):167-75. doi: 10.1002/cne.902450204.


The postnatal development of two visual areas (nucleus rotundus and ectostriatum) and two song control areas (hyperstriatum ventrale pars caudale, HVc, and nucleus robustus archistriatalis, RA) of the zebra finch brain was followed from birth to adulthood. The following parameters were investigated: (1) neuron size, (2) volume of the brain nuclei, and (3) myelination of axons. The nucleus rotundus, the diencephalic station of the tectofugal pathway, exhibits the fastest development: rotundal neurons reach their maximum size at 20 days of age; the volume of this structure reaches adult size at the same time. The process of myelination begins between day 5 and day 10 and is completed at 40 days of age. A similar temporal sequence of development is seen in the ectostriatum, except myelination starts some days later. Thus the development of these visual areas is completed at 40 days. In contrast, the development of the song control nuclei is delayed. Neurons in RA and HVc grow steadily up to 40 days of age, attaining a size larger than that observed in adults. Whereas the volume of HVc increases until day 40 and remains stable thereafter, RA volume increases until day 70 and evidences a decrease thereafter. It is not until postnatal day 20 (RA) and day 40 (HVc) that the myelination process starts in the song control areas. Adult myelin density is achieved by 70 days in RA and by 100 days in HVc. It can be demonstrated that the development of the visual system parallels the development of visual performance of the birds. Delayed growth of song control nuclei coincides with development of song.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aging
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn / growth & development*
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Birds
  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Brain / physiology
  • Male
  • Myelin Sheath / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Visual Pathways / growth & development
  • Vocalization, Animal / physiology*