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McMaster University
Brett Beston

The Impact of Song Presentation on Songbirds’ Gene Expression Leads to Behavioural Changes Monica Bridge 1131114 PSYCH 2TT3 McMaster University th Monday January 28 , 2013 The Impact of Song Presentation on Songbirds’ Gene Expression Leads to Behavioural Changes In the study “Song Presentation Induces Gene Expression in the Songbird Forebrain”, researchers attempted to answer the following question, “Are genomic regulatory events part of the brain’s response to birdsong?” (Mello, Vicario, and Clayton, 1992). By observing whether or not there was a rapid response of Zenk expression in the songbirds’ brains, researchers were able to collect information on these regulatory events. Ultimately, the answer to this question is important in understanding animal behaviour as it allows researchers to examine whether modification at the molecular level can lead to changes in behaviour after exposure to birdsong. It can also help determine the pathways, which are used to relay information to the song-selective areas in the brains of songbirds. According to Mello et al. (1992), if genomic regulatory events do in fact play a role in the brain’s response to birdsong exposure, then there should be a significant increase in Zenk mRNA levels in the birds exposed to birdsongs. In order to test their hypothesis, researchers conducted an experiment in which two species, zebra finches and canaries, of male adult songbirds were isolated and exposed to song stimulus of either conspecific birdsong, heterospecific birdsong, or non- song stimulus (tone bursts). The stimulus was presented at the same time, distance and sound intensity to avoid any variability amongst the test subjects. Songbirds who weren’t exposed to any auditory stimulus were used as a control group. Afterwards, the birds were sacrificed and their brains underwent hybridization and exposure to x-rays. The Zenk cDNA was then isolated and brain sections of both species were analyzed using brain imaging techniques (Mello et al., 1992). This experiment allowed researchers to observe high levels of Z
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