Arrhythmic song exposure increases ZENK Expression in auditory cortical areas and nucleus taeniae of the adult zebra finch

Jennifer Lampen, Katherine Jones, J. Devin McAuley, Soo Eun Chang, Juli Wade

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Rhythm is important in the production of motor sequences such as speech and song. Deficits in rhythm processing have been implicated in human disorders that affect speech and language processing, including stuttering, autism, and dyslexia. Songbirds provide a tractable model for studying the neural underpinnings of rhythm processing due to parallels with humans in neural structures and vocal learning patterns. In this study, adult zebra finches were exposed to naturally rhythmic conspecific song or arrhythmic song. Immunohistochemistry for the immediate early gene ZENK was used to detect neural activation in response to these two types of stimuli. ZENK was increased in response to arrhythmic song in the auditory association cortex homologs, caudomedial nidopallium (NCM) and caudomedial mesopallium (CMM), and the avian amygdala, nucleus taeniae (Tn). CMM also had greater ZENK labeling in females than males. The increased neural activity in NCM and CMM during perception of arrhythmic stimuli parallels increased activity in the human auditory cortex following exposure to unexpected, or perturbed, auditory stimuli. These auditory areas may be detecting errors in arrhythmic song when comparing it to a stored template of how conspecific song is expected to sound. CMM may also be important for females in evaluating songs of potential mates. In the context of other research in songbirds, we suggest that the increased activity in Tn may be related to the value of song for assessing mate choice and bonding or it may be related to perception of arrhythmic song as aversive.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere108841
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number9
StatePublished - 26 Sep 2014


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