In seasonally breeding male oscines, song learning and expression are controlled by brain regions (vocal control regions, VCRs) that exhibit seasonal neural plasticity in adulthood. Several VCRs contain androgen receptors, and gonadal androgens play important roles in the control of seasonal structural and functional changes of VCRs. Recent studies also found that adult VCRs are influenced by factors other than gonadal hormones, including photoperiod, but the relative importance of these factors and their mechanisms of action are poorly understood. To address this issue, we investigated the contributions of photoperiod and testicular androgens to the regulation of VCR volumes and to the control of song expression in adult dark-eyed juncos, Junco hyemalis. Exposing castrated (CX) photosensitive males to long days (LD) enhanced their high vocal center (HVc) volumes compared to those of males held on short days (SD). These volumes were not further increased by concurrent testosterone (T) treatment, revealing a marked and gonadal androgen-independent stimulatory influence of photoperiod on the size of this brain region. HVc sizes were smaller in LD-exposed photorefractory than photosensitive males irrespective of whether birds were intact or had been castrated before photoperiodic manipulations, but HVc sizes increased in response to T treatment in intact photorefractory males. Thus, LD exposure can increase HVc volumes in the absence of gonadal T, but large volume induction in photorefractory males requires elevated plasma T levels. Testosterone treatment of SD-exposed photosensitive males increased HVc, but not Area X, MAN, or RA volumes. Only T-treated males sang and this treatment given to castrates was equally effective behaviorally when administered to photosensitive, photostimulated, or photorefractory juncos. This result indicates that the stimulating influence of LD exposure on HVc volumes is insufficient to induce song in the absence of elevated plasma T levels.
- Neural plasticity
- Song system
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
- Behavioral Neuroscience