Seasonal Neuronal Plasticity in Song-Control and Auditory Forebrain Areas in Subtropical Nonmigratory and Palearctic-Indian Migratory Male Songbirds

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Abstract

This study examines whether differences in annual life-history states (LHSs) among the inhabitants of two latitudes would have an impact on the neuronal plasticity of the song-control system in songbirds. At the times of equinoxes and solstices during the year (n = 4 per year) corresponding to different LHSs, we measured the volumetric changes and expression of doublecortin (DCX; an endogenous marker of the neuronal recruitment) in the song-control nuclei and higher order auditory forebrain regions of the subtropical resident Indian weaverbirds (Ploceus philippinus) and Palearctic-Indian migratory redheaded buntings (Emberiza bruniceps). Area X in basal ganglia, lateral magnocellular nucleus of the anterior nidopallium (LMAN), HVC (proper name), and robust nucleus of the arcopallium (RA) were enlarged during the breeding LHS. Both round and fusiform DCX-immunoreactive (DCX-ir) cells were found in area X and HVC but not in LMAN or RA, with a significant seasonal difference. Also, as shown by increase in volume and by dense, round DCX-ir cells, the neuronal incorporation was increased in HVC alone during the breeding LHS. This suggests differences in the response of song-control nuclei to photoperiod-induced changes in LHSs. Furthermore, DCX immunoreactivity indicated participation of the cortical caudomedial nidopallium and caudomedial mesopallium in the song-control system, albeit with differences between the weaverbirds and the buntings. Overall, these results show seasonal neuronal plasticity in the song-control system closely associated with annual reproductive LHS in both of the songbirds. Differences between species probably account for the differences in the photoperiod-response system between the relative refractory weaverbirds and absolute refractory redheaded buntings. J. Comp. Neurol. 524:2914–2929, 2016. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

This study shows that neuronal plasticity accompanied by song-control nuclei growth, DCX-ir cells expression, and participation of auditory areas is linked to breeding states in both subtropical resident Indian weaverbirds and temperate migratory redheaded buntings, despite differences in their breeding latitudes and annual photoperiodic responsiveness.

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