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Behavioral and neural lateralization of vision in courtship singing of the zebra finch

Abstract : Along with human speech and language processing, birdsong has been one of the best-characterized model systems for understanding the relationship of lateralization of brain function to behavior. Lateralization of song production has been extensively characterized, and lateralization of song perception has begun to be studied. Here we have begun to examine whether behavior and brain function are lateralized in relation to communicative aspects of singing, as well. In order to monitor central brain function, we assayed the levels of several activity dependent immediate early genes after directed courtship singing. Consistent with a lateralization of visual processing during communication, there were higher levels of expression of both egr-1 and c-fos in the left optic tectum after directed singing. Because input from the eyes to the brain is almost completely contralateral in birds, these results suggest that visual input from the right eye should be favored during normal singing to females. Consistent with this, we further found that males sang more when they could use only their right eye compared to when they could use only their left eye. Normal levels of singing, though, required free use of both eyes to view the female. These results suggest that there is a preference for visual processing by the right eye and left brain hemisphere during courtship singing. This may reflect a proposed specialization of the avian left hemisphere in sustaining attention on stimuli toward which a motor response is planned. (c) 2006 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
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Isabelle George, Erina Hara, Neal A. Hessler. Behavioral and neural lateralization of vision in courtship singing of the zebra finch. Journal of Neurobiology, Wiley, 2006, 66 (10), pp.1164--1173. ⟨10.1002/neu.20273⟩. ⟨hal-01303560⟩

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