Neuronal activation in zebra finch parents associated with reintroduction of nestlings

Emese A. Fazekas, Boglárka Morvai, Gergely Zachar, Fanni Dóra, Tamás Székely, Ákos Pogány, Arpád Dobolyi

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2 Citations (SciVal)


Recent studies of the brain mechanisms of parental behaviors have mainly focused on rodents. Using other vertebrate taxa, such as birds, can contribute to a more comprehensive, evolutionary view. In the present study, we investigated a passerine songbird, the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata), with a biparental caring system. Parenting-related neuronal activation was induced by first temporarily removing the nestlings, and then, either reuniting the focal male or female parent with the nestlings (parental group) or not (control group). To identify activated neurons, the immediate early gene product, Fos protein, was labeled. Both parents showed an increased level of parental behavior following reunion with the nestlings, and no sexual dimorphism occurred in the neuronal activation pattern. Offspring-induced parental behavior-related neuronal activation was found in the preoptic, ventromedial (VMH), paraventricular hypothalamic nuclei, and in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis. In addition, the number of Fos-immunoreactive (Fos-ir) neurons in the nucleus accumbens predicted the frequency of the feeding of the nestlings. No difference was found in Fos expression when the effect of isolation or the presence of the mate was examined. Thus, our study identified a number of nuclei involved in parental care in birds and suggests similar regulatory mechanisms in caring females and males. The activated brain regions show similarities to rodents, while a generally lower number of brain regions were activated in the zebra finch. Furthermore, future studies are necessary to establish the role of the apparently avian-specific neuronal activation in the VMH of zebra finch parents.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)363-379
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number3
Early online date19 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • biparental care
  • bird brain
  • neuronal activation
  • offspring provisioning
  • parental behavior
  • RRID:AB_2231996
  • RRID:AB_2340593
  • RRID:SCR_001905
  • RRID:SCR_002380
  • RRID:SCR_003070
  • RRID:SCR_016041

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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