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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 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

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
information Hungarian Ministry of Human Capacities, Grant/Award Numbers: 783-3/2018, 20460-3/2018/FEKUTSRAT, ÚNKP-17-3, ÚNKP-18-4; Hungarian National Research, Development and Innovation Office, Grant/Award Numbers: 2017-1.2.1-NKP-2017-00002, NKFIH-2920-1/2016-VEKOP-2.3.-15, NKFIH-4300-1/2017-NKP_17, NKFIH-6785-1/2016-VEKOP-2.3.3-15, OTKA K109337, OTKA K116538The work was supported by the Hungarian National Research, Development and Innovation Office NKFIH-4300-1/2017-NKP_17, NKFIH-2920-1/2016-VEKOP-2.3.-15, NKFIH-VEKOP-2.3.3-15-2017-00019, NKFIH-6785-1/2016-VEKOP-2.3.3-15, 2017-1.2.1-NKP-2017-00002, OTKA K109337, and OTKA K116538 research grants, and Semmelweis Egyetem and Eötvös Loránd University Institutional Excellence Program (783-3 and 20460-3/2018/FEKUTSRAT) of the Hungarian Ministry of Human Capacities. E.A.F. was supported by ÚNKP-17-3 New National Excellence Program of the Ministry of Human Capacities, Hungary. Á.P. was supported by the János Bolyai Research Scholarship of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and by the ÚNKP-18-4 New National Excellence Program of the Ministry of Human Capacities, Hungary. In addition, we are grateful to Dr Ádám Miklósi for helping in the experimental design and correction in the experimental protocol. The authors also thank Nikolett Hanák for the technical assistance.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 The Authors. The Journal of Comparative Neurology published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


  • 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)


Dive into the research topics of 'Neuronal activation in zebra finch parents associated with reintroduction of nestlings'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this