Projects per year
Nest building in birds involves a behavioral sequence (nest material collection and deposition in the nest) that offers a unique model for addressing how the brain sequences motor actions. In this study, we identified brain regions involved in nesting behavior in male and female zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata). We used Fos immunohistochemistry to quantify production of the immediate early gene protein product Fos (a molecular indicator of neuronal activity) in the brain and correlated this expression with the variation in nesting behavior. Using this technique, we found that neural circuitry involved in motor sequencing, social behavior, reward and motivation were active during nesting. Within pairs of nesting birds, the number of times a male picked up or deposited nesting material and the amount of time a female spent in the nest explained the variation in Fos expression in the anterior motor pathway, social behavior network, and reward neural circuits. Identification of the brain regions that are involved in nesting enables us to begin studying the roles of motor sequencing, context, and reward in construction behavior at the neural level.