Data from: A neural hub that coordinates learned and innate courtship behaviors


Holistic behaviors often require the coordination of innate and learned movements. The neural circuits that enable such coordination remain unknown. Here we identify a midbrain cell group (A11) that enables male zebra finches to coordinate their learned songs with various innate behaviors, including female-directed calling, orientation and pursuit. Anatomical mapping reveals that A11 is at the center of a complex network including the song premotor nucleus HVC as well as brainstem regions crucial to innate calling and locomotion. Notably, lesioning A11 terminals in HVC blocked female-directed singing, but did not interfere with female-directed calling, orientation or pursuit. In contrast, lesioning A11 cell bodies abolished all female-directed courtship behaviors. However, males with either type of lesion still produced songs when in social isolation. Lastly, monitoring A11 terminals in HVC showed that during courtship A11 inputs to the song premotor cortex signal the transition from innate to learned vocalizations. These results show how a brain region important to reproduction in both birds and mammals coordinates learned vocalizations with innate, ancestral courtship behaviors.

Data Access

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Mooney, R; Ben-Tov, M; Duarte, F

Published Date

  • July 20, 2021

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.7924/r4fq9z00b