SfN Day #1 Poster Round-Up: Crocs listening to Bach, Hummingbird neurophysiology, and estrogen treatment for schizophrenia (+ more!)

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SfN Day #1 Science Round-Up


Yesterday was the opening day of SfN 2017! While I attended a full-day satellite conference Friday on
vocal communication (blog post forthcoming), I saw some amazing science yesterday afternoon that are too exciting not to share.

:one: Crocodile brains light up listening to Bach :crocodile: :musical_keyboard:

For the first time ever, live juvenile Nile crocodiles (say that 10 times fast…or even once) were placed in a brain scanner while being presented with various sensory stimuli. Live crocs were exposed to flashing light (red and green), and in a separate set of trials, also presented with pure tones (1kHZ + 3kHZ), as well as a “complex acoustic stimulus”. In this case, Bach.

While crocs were under mild sedation, researchers found that the canonical primary auditory cortex responded to all sounds. However, in the supposed secondary auditory cortex, the only tune to elicit a BOLD response was Bach.

Flashing lights seemed to generally increase activity in visual processing regions.

Taken together, the findings in crocodiles parallels hierarchical sensory processing observed in other vertebrates, such as birds, and suggests a conserved structure/function for sensory processing

36.08 / C57 - fMRI in nile crocodiles (crocodylus niloticus) reveals conserved sensory processing patterns in the vertebrate forebrain. B.K. Billings; M. Behroozi; X. Helluy; P. Manger; O. Güntürkün; F. Ströckens.


:two: Hummingbird motor neurons parallel vocal production neurons in songbirds


A vibrant male Anna’s hummingbird producing courtship song

Vocal learning is rare in vertebrates. Aside from humans, only a handful of other species must learn their species-specific vocalizations including 3 orders of birds : songbirds, parrots, and humming birds (side note: anyone at the Jarvis lecture should be up to date on all of this :bird:).


Parallel neural mechanisms faciliatting vocal learning in birds and humans. Source: Jarvis Lab

The majority of research on vocal learning, production, and audition has been focused on songbirds, such as zebra finches. As such, a lot less is known about the how hummbingbirds tweet.

Extracellular and whole-recordings recordings made in the vocal control nucleus VA (vocal nucleus of the arcopallium; similar to RA in songbirds) of male Anna’s hummingbirds (HBs) demonstrated that much like their distant songbird relatives (the zebra finch), HBs have a similar similar distribution spontaneously active, sustained, and onset neurons.

Histological evidence also showed similar molecular profiles: as with male zebra finches, HBs show a high degree of myelination, abundant estrogen- and androgen-receptor expression, as well as parvalbumin+ neurons in VA.

Taken together, Perkel et al’s data begins to suggest a convergent evolution in vocal learning bird at the level of ion channels, and this convergence in physiology and molecular profile may be a key adaption enabling rapid, precise, learned motor output, such as song.

66.11 / GG33. Spontaneously firing neurons in hummingbird vocal control nucleus VA, analogous to songbird RA. D.J. Perkel; C.A. Williams; K.E. Miller; P.V. Lovell; C.V. Mello.


Rapid communications :running_man: brief, one sentence take-homes on the latest n’ greatest from #SfN17


:three: Estrogen treatment improves cortical disruption found in schizophrenic patients (human iPSCs).

32.26 / C3 - Investigating the mechanisms underlying the beneficial effects of estrogens in schizophrenia.P.M. Deans; C. Shum; A.B. Palmos; F. Erli; M. Conforti; R.R. Duarte; P. Raval; J.A. Crowe; K.J. Sellers; S. Bhattacharyya; T.R. Powell; J. Price; D.P. Srivastava


:four: In juvenile male songbirds, transiently inactivating the left (but not right) secondary auditory cortex during social tutoring impairs song imitation and temporal structure in adulthood

66.07 / GG29 - Left-lateralized brain activity is necessary for vocal learning in zebra finches. A.H. Pagliaro; H.C. Piristine; J.S. Lord; S.M.H. Gobes


:five: Estrogen rapidly enables lordosis in female rats via membrane receptors in the arcuate nucleus.

67.17 / HH23 - Membrane impermeable estradiol (E-Biotin) rapidly facilitates lordosis through G protein-coupled estrogen receptor-1 (GPER). S.M. Chokr; R. Tominna; K. Sinchak

:six: Polymer-based electrophysiology device allows researchers to follow single rat neurons for almost a year (~300 days) while recording from 1024 channels; also successfully adapted in songbird recordings

84.06 / SS5 - Modular polymer probe-based system enables long-lasting, high-quality recordings from distributed circuits in freely behaving animals. J.E. Chung; J.L. Fan; H.R. Joo; D.F. Liu; C.R. Geaghan-Breiner; S. Chen; J. Pebbles; A. Tooker; K.Y. Lee; J.F. Magland; A.H. Barnett; L.F. Greengard; V. Tolosa; L.M. Frank


Stay tuned for my next posts on Erich Jarvis’ fantastic Presidential lecture, as well as one on the birdsong satellite meeting covering communication in context - the relation between perception and production.


Follow me on Twitter :bird: I’ll be live tweeting throughout #SfN17


First-rate first looks at behavior + neural circuits of 'non-traditional' species @ SfN17
Squawks, grunts, and speech: vocal communication across the animal kingdom
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