Blocking estradiol synthesis affects memory for songs in auditory forebrain of male zebra finches

Kathleen M. Yoder, Kai Lu, David S. Vicario

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Estradiol (E2) has recently been shown to modulate sensory processing in an auditory area of the songbird forebrain, the caudomedial nidopallium (NCM). When a bird hears conspecific song, E2 increases locally in NCM, where neurons express both the aromatase enzyme that synthesizes E2 from precursors and estrogen receptors. Auditory responses in NCM show a form of neuronal memory: repeated playback of the unique learned vocalizations of conspecific individuals induces long-lasting stimulus-specific adaptation of neural responses to each vocalization. To test the role of E2 in this auditory memory, we treated adult male zebra finches (n=16) with either the aromatase inhibitor fadrozole (FAD) or saline for 8 days. We then exposed them to 'training' songs and, 6 h later, recorded multiunit auditory responses with an array of 16 microelectrodes in NCM. Adaptation rates (a measure of stimulus-specific adaptation) to playbacks of training and novel songs were computed, using established methods, to provide a measure of neuronal memory. Recordings from the FAD-treated birds showed a significantly reduced memory for the training songs compared with saline-treated controls, whereas auditory processing for novel songs did not differ between treatment groups. In addition, FAD did not change the response bias in favor of conspecific over heterospecific song stimuli. Our results show that E2 depletion affects the neuronal memory for vocalizations in songbird NCM, and suggest that E2 plays a necessary role in auditory processing and memory for communication signals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)922-926
Number of pages5
Issue number16
StatePublished - Nov 14 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


  • Animal vocalization
  • Estradiol
  • auditory processing
  • caudomedial nidopallium
  • memory songbirds
  • species specificity
  • stimulus-specific adaptation


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