This is an application for a first award to study the genomic, molecular, and cellular changes that underlie the acquisition of auditory memories in the avian brain. This application is based on the observation that when songbirds are exposed to a novel conspecific song, certain immediate early genes (i.e., ZENK and c-jun) are induced in a region of the forebrain known as the caudal neostriatum (NCM). Furthermore, repeated exposure to a single song results in a long-lasting habituation of the auditory responses of NCM neurons to this song as measured electrophysiologically; the persistence of this habituation requires new protein and mRNA synthesis. The Principal Investigator seeks to examine the functional significance of the genomic response triggered by song and its possible relation to the long-term modification of the NCM cells' auditory response properties.
The specific aims are to: (1) characterize further the expression of ZENK in response to song, including the identity of cells in NCM that express ZENK; (2) search for other genes induced in the NCM by song at various times when RNA synthesis has been shown to be necessary for habituation; (3) characterize and test a method to block expression of certain song-related genes in vivo; (4) determine the position of song-related genes in the genomic cascade triggered by song; and (5) examine the role of song-related genes in the long-term habituation to a particular song.
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