Development of the catecholaminergic innervation of the song system of the male zebra finch

J Neurobiol. 1996 Apr;29(4):473-89. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1097-4695(199604)29:4<473::AID-NEU5>3.0.CO;2-5.


Catecholamines (CA) have been proposed to have neuromodulatory actions, particularly on attention and learning, in a number of neural systems. Because several of the interconnected brain nuclei that mediate song learning and production in the adult male zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata) contain these neurotransmitters, we investigated the appearance of the catecholaminergic innervation of the song nuclei of male zebra finches during posthatch development, specifically during the period in which song learning occurs. We studied the development of immunoreactivity for tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) in the song nuclei HVc, RA, NIf, LMAN, and Area X in young males aged 20, 35, and 60 days as well as in adults (> 90 days). We also visualized catecholamines directly in Area X using CA histofluorescence. Both TH immunoreactivity and CA histofluorescence were initially low in Area X relative to their levels in the surrounding parolfactory lobe (LPO), and then increased during development to become more intense than in LPO by days 60-90. Similarly, TH immunoreactivity in HVc was initially low relative to that in the surrounding neostriatum, then increased during development to become more intense than that in the surround by day 60. TH immunostaining also increased markedly in NIf, RA, and LMAN over the same period. These results show that the levels of catecholamines and their major synthetic enzyme increase in song nuclei during development and thus raise the possibility that these transmitters contribute to the development of the song system or to song learning.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Antibody Specificity
  • Biomarkers
  • Birds / physiology*
  • Catecholamines / analysis
  • Catecholamines / physiology*
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Learning / physiology
  • Male
  • Motor Neurons / chemistry
  • Motor Neurons / enzymology
  • Neural Pathways
  • Prosencephalon / cytology
  • Prosencephalon / enzymology
  • Prosencephalon / growth & development*
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / analysis
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / immunology
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / metabolism
  • Vocalization, Animal / physiology*


  • Biomarkers
  • Catecholamines
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase