Gene expression of Dio2 (thyroid hormone converting enzyme) in telencephalon is linked with predisposed biological motion preference in domestic chicks

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HighlightsImprinting induces predisposed preference to biological motion (BM) in chicks.Imprinting induces Dio2 gene for thyroid hormone (TH) conversion in telencephalon.Induced BM preference and Dio2 gene expression are positively correlated.Chicks form social attachment to natural objects through combined actions of TH.Filial imprinting leads to the formation of social attachment if training is performed during a brief sensitive period after hatching. We found that thyroid hormone (3,5,3′-triiodothyronine, T3) acts as a critical determining factor of the sensitive period in domestic chicks. Imprinting upregulates gene expression of the converting enzyme (Dio2, type 2 iodothyronine deiodinase) in the telencephalon, leading to increased brain T3 content. If systemically applied, T3 facilitates imprinting in aged chicks even after the sensitive period is over. Imprinting is also associated with the rapid development of visual perception. Exposure to motion pictures induces a predisposed preference to Johansson’s biological motion (BM), and those individuals with higher BM preference are more easily imprinted. Here, we examined whether Dio2 expression is also linked with BM predisposition. Chicks were trained by a rotating red block, and tested for imprinting (experiment 1) and BM preference (experiment 2). To examine the time courses of behavioural and physiological processes, Dio2 expression in telencephalon was compared among three groups: naïve control chicks, and chicks trained for a short (0.5 h) or long period (2 h). In experiment 1, higher Dio2 expression appeared in the 2-h group than in the 0.5-h/control groups, but it was not correlated with the individual imprinting score. In experiment 2, a significant positive correlation appeared between Dio2 expression and BM preference in 2-h-trained chicks. Memory priming by T3 is therefore functionally linked to BM preference induction, leading to successful imprinting to natural objects even when they are initially exposed to artificial objects.

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