Effect of testosterone on input received by an identified neuron type of the canary song system: A Golgi/electron microscopy/ degeneration study

R. A. Canady, G. D. Burd, T. J. DeVoogd, F. Nottebohm

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86 Scopus citations


Combinations of the Golgi stain, anterograde degeneration, and electron microscopy are used to further characterize the hormone-sensitive 'type IV' neuron of the forebrain nucleus robustus archistriatalis (RA) of adult female canaries. Anterograde degeneration was used to 'stain', at the electronmicroscopic level, the axon terminals of neurons projecting to RA from hyperstriatum ventralis, pars caudalis (HVc) and from the lateral magnocellular nucleus of the anterior neostriatum (L-MAN). The HVc neurons projecting to RA type IV cells form synapses predominantly on the dendritic spines of those cells, while L-MAN neurons that project to RA type IV cells form a 2.5:1 mixture of shaft and spine synapses. There were about 1000 synapses from HVc neurons (about 30% of all spine synapses) on typical type IV cells and about 50 synapses from L-MAN neurons. Earlier work had shown that in female canaries the dendrites of type IV neurons of the avian song control nucleus RA increase in total length after systemic testosterone treatment, and that this increase in dendritic length was accompanied by the development of malelike song. We now show that testosterone treatment also increases the number of dendritic spines present in type IV neurons. Presumably this is accompanied by an increase in the number of synaptic inputs received by type IV cells. Earlier evidence suggested that the testosterone-induced addition of extra dendritic length to type IV cells occurred at existing dendritic tips. We tested the hypothesis that these added peripheral ends received a special subset of inputs, which might then account for the change in behavior, and found it to be false. Mapping and counts of degenerating synapses resulting from lesion of HVc and L-MAN suggest that under the influence of hormone, new synapses are added throughout the dendritic tree, with no special distribution or change in ratio of inputs occurring at the tip of dendrites. Under the influence of testosterone, each type IV cell may receive only 'more of the same' inputs it received before onset of treatment. We speculate on how such changes in circuitry may relate to song stability and learning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3770-3784
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number10
StatePublished - 1988

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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