Temporal patterning of song production: participation of nucleus uvaeformis of the thalamus

J Neurobiol. 1993 Jul;24(7):903-12. doi: 10.1002/neu.480240704.


Birdsong is a learned vocal behavior used in intraspecific communication. The motor pathway serving learned vocalizations includes the forebrain nuclei NIf, HVC, and RA; RA projects to midbrain and brain stem areas that control the temporal and acoustic features of song. Nucleus Uvaeformis of the thalamus (Uva) sends input to two of these forebrain nuclei (NIf and HVC) but has not been thought to be important for song production. We used three experimental approaches to reexamine Uva's function in adult male zebra finches. (1) Electrical stimulation applied to Uva activated HVC and the vocal motor pathway, including tracheosyringeal motor neurons that innervate the bird's vocal organ. (2) Bilateral lesions of Uva including the dorso-medial portion of the nucleus affected the normal temporal organization of song. (3) Chronic multiunit recordings from Uva during normal song and calls show bursts of premotor activity that lead the onset of some song components, and also larger bursts that mark the end of complete song motifs. These results implicate Uva in the production of learned vocalizations, and further suggest that Uva contributes more to the temporal structure than to the acoustic characteristics of song.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Birds / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Efferent Pathways / cytology
  • Efferent Pathways / physiology
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Female
  • Male
  • Motor Neurons / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Prosencephalon / physiology
  • Thalamic Nuclei / physiology*
  • Vocalization, Animal / physiology*