Early developmental stress can have long-term physiological and behavioral effects on an animal. Developmental stress and early corticosterone (Cort) exposure affect song quality in many songbirds. Early housing condition can act as a stressor and affect the growth of nestlings and adult song, and improvements in housing condition can reverse adverse effects of early stress exposure in rodents. However, little is known about this effect in songbirds. Therefore, we took a novel approach to investigate if housing condition can modify the effects of early Cort exposure on adult song in male zebra finches. We manipulated early housing conditions to include breeding in large communal flight cages (FC; standard housing condition; with mixed-sex and mix-aged birds) versus individual breeding cages (IBC, one male-female pair with small, IBC-S, or large clutches, IBC-L) in post-hatch Cort treated male birds. We found that Cort treated birds from IBC-S have higher overall song learning scores (between tutor and pupil) than from FC but there is no difference between these groups in the No-Cort treated birds. When examining the effects of Cort within each housing condition, overall song learning scores decreased in Cort treated birds from flight cages but increased in birds from IBC-S compared to controls. Likewise, the total number of syllables and syllable types increased significantly in Cort treated birds from IBC-S, but decreased in FC-reared birds though this effect was not statistically significant. These findings suggest that the effects of early Cort treatment on learned features of song depend on housing condition.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The authors wish to thank Ms. Shauna Cheesman, Ms. Christy Greene, Mr. David Sinkiewicz, and Syed Rizvi for their technical assistance with this project. The authors like to thank Mary Karom with technical support with radioimmunoassay. This work was supported by the Brains & Behavior Fellows Program at Georgia State University . This work was also supported by the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience under the STC program of the National Science Foundation under Agreement No. IBN-9876754 .
- Housing conditions
- Song quality
- Zebra finch