Influence of early-life nutritional stress on songbird memory formation.

Journal: Proceedings of the Royal Society B

Published: 2018-09-26

DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2018.1270

Affiliations: 3

Authors: 7

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Research Highlight

Stressed songbirds lose melody memory

© Picture by Tambako the Jaguar/Getty

© Picture by Tambako the Jaguar/Getty

Songbirds raised on a sparse diet struggle to learn the songs they need to survive.

Many birds learn special songs from their parents, or ‘tutors’, while fledglings, which they might need later in life to attract a mate. But stressful conditions in those early days could hamper brain development and learning capacity.

A team that included researchers from Deakin University raised zebra finches on a restricted diet. They then studied how the birds’ brains responded to hearing their tutor’s song in adulthood by observing the activities of two genes related to vocal recognition. The starved songbirds showed less brain activity on hearing their childhood tutor’s tune than their properly fed peers. They also struggled to remember new melodies the day after hearing them as adults.

This study highlights the risk of long-lasting effects of stressful early-life experiences.

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  1. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 285, 20181270 (2018). doi: 10.1098/rspb.2018.1270
Institutions Share
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey (RU), United States of America (USA) 0.43
Deakin University, Australia 0.43
Max Planck Institute for Ornithology (MPIO), Germany 0.14