Androgen control of vocal control region volumes in a wild migratory songbird (Junco hyemalis) is region and possibly age dependent

Cynthia C. Gulledge, Pierre Deviche

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Previous laboratory studies have shown that photoperiodic adult songbirds experience seasonal variations in singing frequency that correlate with plasma androgen levels, as well as changes in the brain regions that control singing (vocal control regions). The present study investigates naturally occurring seasonal changes in the sizes of these regions in a wild migratory species (dark-eyed junco, Junco hyemalis), with samples from adolescence to postbreeding fall migration. In adult males, the volumes of the vocal control regions area X and the higher vocal center (HVC) were large during the breeding season when birds were singing and androgen levels were high, and decreased in size after the breeding season when singing had stopped and androgen levels were low. HVC volume in adolescent males caught in the fall (no singing), when plasma androgen levels were low, was smaller than in breeding adults, thereby following the seasonal pattern of change in plasma androgen levels. In adolescent males, however, area X volume was the same as in breeding adults. Thus, area X size in adolescent male juncos may be testosterone independent. The seasonal pattern of robust nucleus of the archistriatum volume was similar to that of the HVC. The volumes of neither the magnocellular nucleus of the anterior neostriatum nor the nucleus rotundus, a control region, differed seasonally. Castration of breeding adult males caused both area X and HVC volumes to decrease compared to castrated controls with testosterone replacement, indicating that maintenance of these two region volumes is testosterone dependent in adults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)391-402
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Neurobiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • junco
  • seasonality
  • song
  • storage phase
  • testosterone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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