Testosterone decreases the potential for song plasticity in adult male zebra finches Article (Faculty180)

cited authors

  • Williams, Heather; Connor, Denise M; Hill, Jennifer W


  • Zebra finches are age-limited learners; males crystallize their songs at 90 days and do not subsequently alter those songs. However, a variety of interventions, including deafening and syringeal denervation, result in long-term changes to the crystallized song. These changes can be prevented by lesioning nucleus LMAN. As different social contexts for song production result in differential activation of LMAN, we asked whether the social context experienced by adult males would affect their ability to alter their songs in response to syringeal denervation. Males able to see and direct their songs to females made fewer changes to their songs than did males that could hear but not see females, but this trend was not significant. The volume of a male's HVc, a forebrain song control nucleus, also failed to predict the degree to which a male would change his song. However, testis mass was significantly correlated with the number of changes made to the song, indicating that variations in testosterone modulate adult song plasticity. We directly tested the effect of circulating testosterone on adult song plasticity by implanting adult males with either testosterone or flutamide, a testosterone receptor blocker, and tracking song changes triggered by ts nerve injury. As predicted, males implanted with testosterone changed their songs less than did males that received flutamide implants. These results suggest that the high testosterone concentrations associated with sexual maturity and song crystallization in zebra finches continue to act in adult males to reduce the potential for vocal plasticity.

publication date

  • 2003

published in

start page

  • 402

end page

  • 12


  • 44