Early life conditions that impact song learning in male zebra finches also impact neural and behavioral responses to song in females.
Early life stressors can impair song in songbirds by negatively impacting brain development and subsequent learning. Even in species in which only males sing, early life stressors might also impact female behavior and its underlying neural mechanisms, but fewer studies have examined this possibility. We manipulated brood size in zebra finches to simultaneously examine the effects of developmental stress on male song learning and female behavioral and neural response to song. Although adult male HVC volume was unaffected, we found that males from larger broods imitated tutor song less accurately. In females, early condition did not affect the direction of song preference: all females preferred tutor song over unfamiliar song in an operant test. However, treatment did affect the magnitude of behavioral response to song: females from larger broods responded less during song preference trials. This difference in activity level did not reflect boldness per se, as a separate measure of this trait did not differ with brood size. Additionally, in females we found a treatment effect on expression of the immediate early gene ZENK in response to tutor song in brain regions involved in song perception (dNCM) and social motivation (LSc.vl, BSTm, TnA), but not in a region implicated in song memory (CMM). These results are consistent with the hypothesis that developmental stressors that impair song learning in male zebra finches also influence perceptual and/or motivational processes in females. However, our results suggest that the learning of tutor song by females is robust to disturbance by developmental stress. © 2018 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Develop Neurobiol, 2018.
Sewall, KB; Anderson, RC; Soha, JA; Peters, S; Nowicki, S
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