Meeting Abstract

P3-51  Tuesday, Jan. 6 15:30  Neurotensin immunolabeling relates to sexually-motivated song and other social behaviors in male European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) MERULLO, D.P.*; CORDES, M.A.; STEVENSON, S.A.; RITERS, L.V.; University of Wisconsin-Madison; University of Wisconsin-Madison; University of Wisconsin-Madison; University of Wisconsin-Madison

The brain regions involved in vocal communication are well described for some species, including songbirds, but less is known about the neural mechanisms underlying motivational aspects of communication. Mesolimbic dopaminergic projections from the ventral tegmental area (VTA) are central to mediating motivated behaviors. In songbirds, VTA provides dopaminergic innervation to brain regions associated with motivation and social behavior that are also involved in sexually-motivated song production. Neurotensin (NT) is a neuropeptide that strongly modulates dopamine activity, co-localizes with dopamine in VTA, and is found in regions where dopaminergic cells project from VTA. Yet, little is known about how NT contributes to vocal communication or other motivated behaviors. We examined the relationships between sexually-motivated song produced by male European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) and NT immunolabeling in brain regions involved in social behavior and motivation. Additionally, we observed relationships between NT labeling, non-vocal courtship behaviors, and agonistic behavior to begin to understand NT’s role in socially-motivated behaviors. NT labeling in lateral septum and bed nucleus of the stria terminalis was related to sexually-motivated singing and non-vocal courtship behaviors. NT in VTA, lateral septum, medial preoptic nucleus, and periaqueductal gray was associated with agonistic behavior. This study is the first to suggest the involvement of NT in song, and one of the few to implicate NT in social behaviors more generally. Our results are consistent with the idea that distinct patterns of neuropeptide activity in brain areas involved in social behavior and motivation underlie differentially motivated behaviors.