Immediate early gene expression and social learning.

Lauren M. Guillette, Tas Vamos, Eira Ihalainen, Sophie C. Edwards, Susan Healy, Simone Meddle

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Zebra finches, a gregarious songbird, use social information when faced with uncertainty: females copy males foraging on novel foods and males copy the nest-material choices of familiar, but not unfamiliar, males. Immediate early gene (IEG) expression (a marker of neural activity) is linked to variation in gregariousness across five finch species: the less social the species the higher IEG expression in areas of the brain belonging to the social-behaviour-network, in response to social stimuli. Here we asked whether intraspecific variation in social information use is also related to IEG expression in the social-behaviour-network. In our experiment, female observers watched live-streamed video of male demonstrators forage from one, but not a second, available novel coloured feeder for 30 minutes. Then females were presented with both feeders and allowed to feed for 60 minutes before IEG expression was quantified. Both the demonstrator and observer were video recorded and several behaviours, including whether or not the observer copied the foraging decisions of the demonstrator, were quantified. In this way we can connect social information use by an individual directly to their neuronal activity.


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