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Social context modulates behavioural and brain immediate early gene responses to sound in male songbird

Authors

  • Clémentine Vignal,

    1. Equipe ‘Communications Acoustiques’, NAMC CNRS UMR 8620, Université Paris-XI-Orsay, & ENES, Université Jean Monnet, 23 rue Docteur Paul Michelon, 42023 Saint-Etienne Cedex 2, France
    2. Laboratoire Traitement du Signal et Instrumentation, Université Jean Monnet, 10 ruebarroin 42000 Saint-Etienne, France
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  • Julie Andru,

    1. Equipe ‘Communications Acoustiques’, NAMC CNRS UMR 8620, Université Paris-XI-Orsay, & ENES, Université Jean Monnet, 23 rue Docteur Paul Michelon, 42023 Saint-Etienne Cedex 2, France
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  • Nicolas Mathevon

    1. Equipe ‘Communications Acoustiques’, NAMC CNRS UMR 8620, Université Paris-XI-Orsay, & ENES, Université Jean Monnet, 23 rue Docteur Paul Michelon, 42023 Saint-Etienne Cedex 2, France
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Dr C. Vignal, as above.
E-mail: cvignal@gmail.com

Abstract

Although it is well known that brain sensory information processing is a highly modulated phenomenon, how this brain function is shaped by experience and social context remains a question to explore. In this paper, we present the first attempt to investigate this problem using a songbird acoustic communication paradigm. Social context is well known to influence acoustic communicating behaviours in birds. The present paper investigates whether brain processing of auditory inputs can be modulated by this ‘audience effect’. Given that call-based communication is known to be highly context-dependent, we focused on the response of male zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) to female calls. We tested to see if the current social context surrounding the hearing bird can modify a sound-induced immediate early gene (IEG) activation in the specific region of the caudomedial nidopallium (NCM), a songbird brain analogous to the superficial layers of the mammalian primary auditory cortex. Our results show that the expression of the sound-induced immediate early gene ZENK in the NCM is considerably enhanced when the hearing bird is in the presence of conspecifics, compared to when he is alone. This context-dependent increase of a sound-induced immediate early gene expression can be correlated with the differential behavioural response of males to the playback of the same acoustic stimulus as a function of social context.

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