Postsynaptic neural activity regulates neuronal addition in the adult avian song control system

Tracy A. Larson, Tsu Wei Wang, Samuel D. Gale, Kimberly E. Miller, Nivretta M. Thatra, Melissa L. Caras, David J. Perkel, Eliot A. Brenowitz*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


A striking feature of the nervous system is that it shows extensive plasticity of structure and function that allows animals to adjust to changes in their environment. Neural activity plays a key role in mediating experience-dependent neural plasticity and, thus, creates a link between the external environment, the nervous system, and behavior. One dramatic example of neural plasticity is ongoing neurogenesis in the adult brain. The role of neural activity in modulating neuronal addition, however, has not been well studied at the level of neural circuits. The avian song control system allows us to investigate how activity influences neuronal addition to a neural circuit that regulates song, a learned sensorimotor social behavior. In adult white-crowned sparrows, new neurons are added continually to the song nucleus HVC (proper name) and project their axons to its target nucleus, the robust nucleus of the arcopallium (RA). We report here that electrical activity in RA regulates neuronal addition to HVC. Decreasing neural activity in RA by intracerebral infusion of the GABAA receptor agonist muscimol decreased the number of new HVC neurons by 56%. Our results suggest that postsynaptic electrical activity influences the addition of new neurons into a functional neural circuit in adult birds.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16640-16644
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number41
Publication statusPublished - 2013 Oct 8
Externally publishedYes


  • Birdsong
  • Songbird
  • Testosterone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


Dive into the research topics of 'Postsynaptic neural activity regulates neuronal addition in the adult avian song control system'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this