Cytoarchitecture of vocal control nuclei in nestling budgerigars: Relationships to call development

William S. Hall, Kelly K. Cookson, James T. Heaton, Todd F. Roberts, Stephen D. Shea, Stuart K. Amateau, Steven E. Brauth

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9 Scopus citations


Changes in the cytoarchitecture of vocal control nuclei were investigated in nestling budgerigars (Melopsittacus undulatus) from hatching to fledging (five to six weeks) in relation to changes in vocalizations produced by nestlings during this period. The nuclei investigated were the hypoglossal nucleus, dorsomedial nucleus of the intercollicular midbrain, central nucleus of the archistriatum, central nucleus of the lateral neostriatum, oval nucleus of the hyperstriatum ventrale, medial division of the oval nucleus of the anterior neostriatum, and magnocellular nucleus of the lobus parolfactorius. These nuclei have been shown to form functional circuits in adults related to vocal learning. Consistent with previously reported results, we found that call development could be described in terms of five different phases based on changes in the duration and segmentation of single and multiple segment foodbegging calls and the appearance of the first socially learned contact calls around the time of fledging. We also found that call segment duration exhibited an inverted U-shaped developmental function during the nestling period, as has been found for total call duration. Cytoarchitectonic studies revealed striking changes in the cellular architecture of vocal control nuclei during the first four weeks posthatching. At hatching the hypoglossal nucleus exhibits adult-like cytoarchitecture, and the central nucleus of the archistriatum and the central nucleus of the lateral neostriatum are distinguishable from surrounding fields. By one week posthatch, the central nucleus of the archistriatum exhibits an adult-like appearance, while other telencephalic vocal control nuclei do not exhibit adult-like cytoarchitecture until three to four weeks posthatching. By two weeks posthatching, the dorsomedial nucleus of the intercollicular midbrain also exhibits adult-like cytoarchitecture. We observed substantial decreases in the thickness of ventricular proliferation zones during this period, with decreases in ventricular zones occurring at about the same point that nuclei at corresponding levels come to exhibit adult-like cytoarchitectonic features. Of interest is the fact that cytoarchitectural development occurs asynchronously in different brain regions, with the appearance of adult-like characteristics in the hindbrain and midbrain occurring before the appearance of adult-like cytoarchitectonic characteristics in telencephalic nuclei. These results are consistent with recent lesion studies indicating that neither auditory feedback nor telencephalic vocal control nuclei are necessary for the production of foodbegging and other nestling calls until three to four weeks posthatching.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)198-226
Number of pages29
JournalBrain, behavior and evolution
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1999


  • Brain development
  • Budgerigars
  • Call development
  • Cytoarchitectural development
  • Parrot vocal development
  • Vocal control nuclei
  • Vocal learning


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