Volumetric development of the zebra finch brain throughout the first 200 days of post-hatch life traced by in vivo MRI
The first months of life are characterized by massive neuroplastic processes that parallel the acquisition of skills and abilities vital for proper functioning in later life. Likewise, juvenile songbirds learn the song sung by their tutor during the first months after hatching. To date, most studies targeting brain development in songbirds exclusively focus on the song control and auditory pathways. To gain a comprehensive insight into structural developmental plasticity of the entire zebra finch brain throughout the different subphases of song learning, we designed a longitudinal study in a group of male (16) and female (19) zebra finches. We collected T2-weighted 3-dimensional anatomical scans at six developmental milestones throughout the process of song learning, i.e. 20, 30, 40, 65, 90 and 120 days post hatching (dph), and one additional time point well after song crystallization, i.e. 200 dph. We observed that the total brain volume initially increases, peaks around 3040 dph and decreases towards the end of the study. Further, we performed brain-wide voxel-based volumetric analyses to create spatio-temporal maps indicating when specific brain areas increase or decrease in volume, relative to the subphases of song learning. These maps informed (1) that most areas implicated in song control change early, i.e. between 20 and 65 dph, and are embedded in large clusters that cover major subdivisions of the zebra finch brain, (2) that volume changes between consecutive subphases of vocal learning appear highly similar in males and females, and (3) that only more rostrally situated brain regions change in volume towards later ages. Lastly, besides detecting sex differences in local tissue volume that align with previous studies, we uncovered two additional brain loci that are larger in male compared to female zebra finches. These volume differences co-localize with areas related to the song control and auditory pathways and can therefore be associated to the behavioral difference as only male zebra finches sing. In sum, our data point to clear heterochronous patterns of brain development similar to brain development in mammalian species and this work can serve as a reference for future neurodevelopmental imaging studies in zebra finches.
Source (journal)
Neuroimage. - New York
New York : 2018
183(2018), p. 227-238
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Unraveling the interaction between testosterone and thyroid hormones and their impact on seasonal changes in the songbird brain.
Learning and brain plasticity: a three levels approach.
Resolution improvement of diffusion MRI images through model based and numeric-symbolic reconstruction.
Hormones and neuroplasticity: image guided discoveries of molecular mechanisms in neuroplasticity (PLASTOSCINE).
Integrated cerebral networks for perception, cognition and action in human and non-human primates (CEREBNET).
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Publications with a UAntwerp address
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Web of Science
Creation 03.10.2018
Last edited 04.08.2021
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