Influence of restraint and acute isolation on the selectivity of the adult zebra finch zenk gene response to acoustic stimuli

Kevin H.J. Park, David F. Clayton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Zebra finches respond to certain auditory stimuli with the activation of the immediate early gene zenk. It has been shown that the amount of sound-mediated zenk gene expression varies in the zebra finch caudomedial neostriatum (NCM), apparently correlated with stimulus type (conspecific>heterospecific>noise>tones) and familiarity. Here we tested the impact of two additional factors - song-specific acoustical properties and testing conditions - on the specificity of the sound-mediated zenk response, as assessed by in situ hybridization. A variant of a normal conspecific song was first produced by randomizing the spectral content while retaining the amplitude envelope ('song-enveloped noise'). This stimulus and related controls were presented to birds which were either free in cages or restrained in a stereotaxic instrument, after isolation either overnight or for only 1 h prior to testing. We confirmed prior results that unrestrained birds show a greater zenk response to normal conspecific song than to other acoustic stimuli. However, under restraint, birds showed little or no selectivity for conspecific song compared to matched stimuli lacking a song organization. Thus the specificity of the zenk response to song is not determined simply by the acoustic structure and familiarity of the stimulus. We conclude that the intrinsic selectivity of sensory responses measured in the CNS may be influenced by factors associated with attention, arousal or vigilance, and may be significantly altered by experimental conditions that involve physical restraint.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)185-191
Number of pages7
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 17 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Auditory
  • Caudomedial neostriatum
  • Contextual modulation
  • Immediate early gene
  • Sound envelope
  • Spectral content
  • Zebra finch
  • Zenk


Dive into the research topics of 'Influence of restraint and acute isolation on the selectivity of the adult zebra finch zenk gene response to acoustic stimuli'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this