Differential Gene Expression in the Anterior Forebrain Pathway Nucleus Area X During Rapid Vocal Learning
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Vocal learning is the complex process by which an organism is able to modify its vocal output, such as birdsong or human speech, due to experience. The pathways used in the production and modification of human speech and birdsong have been shown to be quite similar, and so, the determining the transcriptome changes in songbirds provide a logical first step to learn more about human speech development. In the current study, trained Zebra Finches, a passerine songbird, were allowed to progress through only the initial stage of vocal development, as determined by a pitch increase compared with untrained isolates. The transcriptomes of the four song nuclei and three auditory forebrain regions of these two groups were compared using microarray hybridizations, and the results were confirmed using in situ hybridization. In Area X, part of the anterior forebrain pathway known to play a role in vocal learning, 149 genes were found to be differentially regulated, with approximately 85% of these genes decreasing in expression. Of the differentially expressed genes, some have already been found to play a role, either directly or indirectly, in learning through previous studies, though most have still yet to have their properties determined. This study, though important in and of itself, is only the first of many pieces to the large process of vocal learning to be put into place; further work will be able to expand upon work here to fill in gaps in our knowledge of the vocal learning process.
Whitaker, Dustin T (2010). Differential Gene Expression in the Anterior Forebrain Pathway Nucleus Area X During Rapid Vocal Learning. Honors and Undergraduate Research. Available electronically from