Immunoreactivity distribution of vasotocin and vasoactive intestinal peptide in brain nuclei of two songbird species with different breeding systems

Catherine M. Montagnese, Tamás Székely, David Gray, Tamás Balázsa, Gergely Zachar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (SciVal)


Vasopressin influences social behaviour in mammals, in particular social recognition and bonding. However, much less is known about its avian analogue, vasotocin, although vasotocin appears to modulate singing behaviour and agonistic interactions together with vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) in some songbirds. The objectives of our study were to compare the expression of vasotocin and VIP in brain nuclei hypothetised to be part of the social behavioural network, i.e. septal areas, bed nucleus of the stria terminalis and medial preoptic nucleus (POM), in two songbird species in the wild: the blue tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) and European penduline tit (Remiz pendulinus). These two closely related passerine birds differ in their pair bonding and mating systems: blue tits are socially monogamous with extensive pair bond lasting for several months, whereas in the European penduline tit, pair bond is short and it dissolves during or after laying of the eggs. The two species did not differ in the distribution of vasotocin in the observed brain regions; however, VIP was more abundant in all three regions of penduline tits than in blue tits. We found a sex difference in favour of males in the distribution of vasotocin-and VIP-immunoreactive neurones, fibres and terminals in all three regions in penduline tits. In blue tits, such gender differences were only observed in the POM. The limited differences between the two species suggest that the levels of vasotocin and VIP in the socially relevant brain regions are likely influenced by many other social or environmental factors than just by differences in the duration of pair bonding.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)140-149
Number of pages10
JournalBrain, Behavior and Evolution
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Bed nucleus of the stria terminalis
  • Lateral septal areas
  • Medial preoptic nucleus
  • Songbirds
  • Vasoactive intestinal peptide
  • Vasotocin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Medicine(all)


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