Brain gene regulation by territorial singing behavior in freely ranging songbirds

Erich D. Jarvis, Hubert Schwabl, Sidarta Ribeiro, Claudio V. Mello

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


To investigate the ecological relevance of brain gene regulation associated with singing behavior in songbirds, we challenged freely ranging song sparrows with conspecific song playbacks within their breeding territories. Males responded by approaching the speaker, searching for an intruder and actively singing. In situ hybridization of brain sections revealed significantly higher expression of the transcriptional regulator ZENK in challenged birds than in unstimulated controls in several auditory structures and song control nuclei. We conclude that singing behavior in the context of territorial defense is associated with gene regulation in brain centers that control song perception and production, and that behaviorally regulated gene expression can be used to investigate brain areas involved in the natural behaviors of freely ranging animals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2073-2077
Number of pages5
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • Avian
  • Immediate early gene
  • Learning
  • Neuroethology
  • Vocal communication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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