Journal of Ornithology

, Volume 148, Supplement 2, pp 231–239 | Cite as

Experience-dependence of neural responses to social versus isolate conspecific songs in the forebrain of female Zebra Finches

  • Mark E. HauberEmail author
  • Sarah M. N. Woolley
  • Frédéric E. Theunissen
Original Article


Early exposure to conspecific song influences the ontogeny of behavioural discrimination between social and isolate songs of males in non-singing female Zebra Finches (Taeniopygia guttata). We explored the potential neural basis of this behavioural plasticity in song preference of female Zebra Finches, reared by both parents in a conspecific colony (controls) or by mothers only in sound-attenuation chambers (father-absent treatment). Comparing extracellular recordings of auditory neurons in the primary auditory forebrain area Field L showed that single units consistently responded with greater response strengths to male songs, over the synthetic stimuli of both frequency-matched pure tone assemblages and reversed conspecific songs, irrespective of females’ ontogenetic treatment. Contrary to expectations, consistent response selectivity for social versus isolate Zebra Finch songs was detected from neurons only in father-absent females and not in control subjects. These results based on statistical analyses of data from single neurons were confirmed by a contingency analysis that used female subjects as independent datapoints. Our findings suggest that differences in the early social and/or auditory experience affect the neurophysiological responses to specific classes of male songs in auditory forebrain neurons of female Zebra Finches. Contrary to expectations, patterns of neuronal discrimination in the Field L complex do not parallel patterns of experience-dependent behavioural discrimination between social and isolate conspecific songs.


Conspecific Forebrain Naïve Oscine Recognition systems 



For assistance, comments, and discussions we are grateful to N. Amin, D. Campbell, T. Fremouw, F. Kubke, E. Lacey, B. Raymond, S. Shaevitz, M. Wild, and two referees. This study was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the UC Berkeley Field Station for Behavioral Research, the University of Auckland Research Council, and the New Zealand Marsden Fund. All animal ethics protocols were approved by IACUC at UC Berkeley. We are grateful to K. Sockman and E. MacDougall-Shackleton for inviting us to participate in the “Flexibility in mating signals and mate choice: ultimate and proximate bases” Symposium at the 24th International Ornithological Congress, Hamburg, Germany.


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Copyright information

© Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark E. Hauber
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sarah M. N. Woolley
    • 2
  • Frédéric E. Theunissen
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Biological SciencesUniversity of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyColumbia UniversityNew York CityUSA
  3. 3.Department of Psychology and Helen Wills Neuroscience InstituteUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA

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