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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Developmental patterns of NMDAR expression within the song system do not recur during adult vocal plasticity in zebra finches.

All songbirds learn to sing during postnatal development but then display species differences in the capacity to learn song in adulthood. While the mechanisms that regulate avian vocal plasticity are not well characterized, one contributing factor may be the composition of N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors (NMDAR). Previous studies of an anterior forebrain pathway implicated in vocal plasticity revealed significant regulation of NMDAR subunit expression during the developmental sensitive period for song learning. Much less is known about the developmental regulation of NMDAR subunit expression in regions that participate more directly in motor aspects of song behavior. We show here that an increase in NR2A subunit mRNA and a decrease in NR2B subunit mRNA within the vocal motor pathway accompany song learning in zebra finches; however, manipulations that can alter the timing of song learning did not alter the course of these developmental changes. We also tested whether adult deafening, a treatment that provokes vocal change in songbirds that normally sing a stable song throughout adulthood, would render NMDAR subunit expression more similar to that observed developmentally. We report that NR2A and NR2B mRNA levels did not change within the anterior forebrain or vocal motor pathways after adult deafening, even after substantial changes in song structure. These results indicate that vocal plasticity does not require "juvenile patterns" of NMDAR gene expression in the avian song system.[1]


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