Differential activation and tyrosine hydroxylase distribution in the hippocampal, pallial and midbrain brain regions in response to cognitive performance in Indian house crows exposed to abrupt light environment

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Disruption of the cyclic feature of the day-night environment can cause negative effects on daily activity and advanced brain functions such as learning, memory and decision-making behaviour. These functions in songbirds, including corvids, involve the hippocampus, pallium and midbrain, as revealed by ZENK (a neuronal activation marker) and tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) expressions. TH is rate-limiting marker enzyme of the biosynthesis of dopamine, widely implicated in learning and memory. Here, we measured ZENK and TH immunoreactivity in the hippocampal, pallial and midbrain regions in response to cognitive performance (learning-memory retrieval) tests in Indian house crows (Corvus splendens) exposed to constant light environment (LL) with controls on 12 h light:12 h darkness. Along with the decay of circadian rhythm in activity behaviour, LL caused a significant decline in the cognitive performance. There was also a decrease under LL in the activity of neurons in the hippocampus, medial and central caudal nidopallium, and hyperpallium apicale, which are widely distributed with TH-immunoreactive fibres. Further, under LL, TH- immunoreactive neurons were reduced in number in midbrain dopamine synthesis sites, the venteral tegmental area (VTA) and substantia nigra (SN), with a negative correlation of co-localized ZENK/TH- immunoreactive cells on errors during the association tasks. These results show decreased activity of learning and memory neural systems, and underscore the role of dopamine in reduced cognitive performance of diurnal corvids with disrupted circadian rhythms under an abrupt light environment.

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