Plasticity in the hippocampal formation of shorebirds during the wintering period: Stereological analysis of parvalbumin neurons in Actitis macularius


The number of parvalbumin neurons can be modified by social, multisensory, and cognitive stimuli in both mammals and birds, but nothing is known about their plasticity in long-distance migratory shorebirds. Here, in the spotted sandpiper (Actitis macularius), we investigated the plasticity of parvalbumin neurons of two brain areas during this species’ wintering period at a lower latitude. We compared individuals in a nonmigratory rest period (November–January) and premigration (May–July) period. We used parvalbumin as a marker for counting a subpopulation of inhibitory neurons in the hippocampal formation (HF), with the magnocellular nucleus of the tectal isthmus (IMC) as a control area. Because the HF is involved in learning and memory and social interaction and the IMC is essential for control of head, neck, and eye movements, we hypothesized that parvalbumin neurons would increase in the HF and remain unchanged in the IMC. We used an optical fractionator to estimate cell numbers. Compared with the nonmigratory rest birds, parvalbumin neuron count estimates in the premigration birds increased significantly in the HF but remained unchanged in IMC. We suggest that the greater number of parvalbuminergic neurons in the HF of A. macularius in the premigration period represents adaptive circuitry changes involved in the migration back to reproductive niches in the northern hemisphere.

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Authors declare that under request, all qualitative and quantitative data will be shared.


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We would like to thank the institutions Universidade Federal do Pará, Instituto de Ciências Biológicas, Hospital Universitário João de Barros Barreto, Laboratório de Investigações em Neurodegeneração e Infecção e Instituto Federal de Educação, Ciência e Tecnologia do Pará, and Laboratório de Biologia Molecular e Neuroecologia for the collaboration to comply with this work.


This research was supported by: Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES); Programa Ciências do Mar II; The Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE); the Brazilian Research Council (CNPq) Edital Universal Grant number 440722/2014-4; Fundação Amazônia Paraense de Amparo à Pesquisa (FAPESPA); Programa de Apoio a Núcleos Emergentes and Financiadora de Estudos e Projetos (FINEP); Instituto Brasileiro de Neurociências (IBNnet); and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).

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  1. Ediely Pereira Henrique is deceased. This paper is dedicated to his/her memory.

    • Ediely Pereira Henrique


All listed authors contributed substantially to the conception or design of the work; the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data for the work; drafting the work or revising it critically for important intellectual content; and/or final approval of the version to be published; and agreed to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.

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Correspondence to Cristovam Wanderley Picanço Diniz.

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Guerreiro, L.C.F., Henrique, E.P., da Silva Rosa, J.B. et al. Plasticity in the hippocampal formation of shorebirds during the wintering period: Stereological analysis of parvalbumin neurons in Actitis macularius. Learn Behav (2021).

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  • Actitis macularius
  • Migration
  • Wintering period
  • Parvalbumin
  • Hippocampal formation
  • Magnocellular nucleus of isthmus