Behavioural Brain Research 153 (2004) 241–248

Research report

Background noise does not modify song-induced genic activation in the bird brain Clémentine Vignal a,b,c,∗ , Joël Attia b , Nicolas Mathevon a,b , Marilyn Beauchaud b a

Equipe ‘Communications Acoustiques’, NAMC CNRS UMR 8620, Université Paris XI, Paris, France b Laboratoire de Biologie Animale, Université Jean Monnet, 42023 Saint-Etienne Cedex 2, France c Laboratoire TSI CNRS UMR 5516, Université Jean Monnet, 42023 Saint-Etienne Cedex 2, France

Received 19 September 2003; received in revised form 3 December 2003; accepted 4 December 2003 Available online 1 February 2004

Abstract Specialised brain structures allow songbirds to process acoustic signals. One of these brain areas, the NCM (caudomedial neostriatum), shows an immediate-early gene ZENK response when a bird hears a conspecific song. Using a neuro-ethological approach, we investigate if high level of background noise added to conspecific song can modify this song-induced genic activation. We test the ZENK activation in the NCM of adult male Zebra finches Taeniopygya guttata (n = 17) by playing back conspecific signals mixed with different levels of noise, the successful discrimination being reflected by the birds’ (n = 6) behavioural responses to these stimuli. From our results, it appears that a high genic activation of the NCM does not necessarily require the audition of an undegraded species-specific signal. Nevertheless, it requires that the signal still contains sufficient information to elicit a behavioural response. The genic activation of the NCM remains thus stable against very high levels of a wide-band background noise, as far as the signal recognition remains possible for the bird. © 2003 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. Keywords: Songbird; Neuroethology; NCM; ZENK; Song discrimination; Zebra finch; Noise; Acoustic communication

1. Introduction During song perception, specialised brain structures underlie the capacity of songbirds to recognise a significant acoustic signal, and allow them to communicate in spite of their natural noisy environment. Studies of the modifications of the expression of the immediate early gene zenk participated in the identification of these brain areas (reviewed in [4]). One of these areas, the NCM (caudomedial neostriatum), shows a ZENK response when a bird hears a song and this response is more robust to conspecific song than to heterospecific song presentation [3,6,13,14,19,21,23,24,29]. This ZENK response declines following habituation due to repeated exposure to one song [22]. Correlatively, the NCM shows an electrophysiological response to conspecific song stimuli and long-term habituation following repeated stimulation [8,28]. This structure appears to be a possible area for the representation of complex acoustic informations [29]. It provides a spatially distributed representation of significant ∗ Corresponding author. Tel.: +33-4-77-48-15-80; fax: +33-4-77-25-18-71. E-mail address: [email protected] (C. Vignal). URL: http://www.cb.u-psud.fr/cb/index.html.

0166-4328/$ – see front matter © 2003 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.bbr.2003.12.006

song features, reflected by a song-specific modulation in firing rate of neurons [8,28] and a topography of genomic activation [27]. Therefore, this brain nucleus is thought to be a centre for perception of conspecific song. Moreover, the NCM possesses connections with Field L, a primary auditory centre, which projects on the so-called high vocal centre (HVC) and the robust nucleus of archistriatum (RA) [30], both song control nuclei belonging to the “songsystem”, responsible for the motor production of song (Fig. 1). A possible role of the NCM could be to extract a biologically relevant information in the acoustic signal, for instance the species-specific identity, and to transmit this information to other brain structures [12]. The relevance of the information can be defined for instance by the individual experience of the bird [6], the bird’s sex [11,31] or by the context in which the stimulus appeared [12]. Background noise can be an obstacle to the successful perception of significant information in acoustic signals. To our knowledge, no previous work has studied if the song-induced activation of the NCM is modified in the presence of masking noise. Using a neuro-ethological approach on the Zebra finch (Taeniopygya guttata), the present study aims to investigate if a high background noise can influence

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HVC NCM RA

cHV Field L

LMAN

Area X

DLM nXIIts Syrinx

Motor pathway Anterior forebrain pathway Connexions between NCM,cHV,Field L

Fig. 1. Schematic illustration of the main pathways implicated in auditory processing and song production in the songbird brain. The posterior motor pathway (HVC > RA > nXIIts > Syrinx) includes brain structures specialised for producing song. The anterior pathway (HVC > Area X > DLM > LMAN > RA) includes brain structures specialised for learning song. These two pathways form the songcircuit. The Field L (primary auditory centre) sends projections to cHV and NCM, which possesses connections with the songcircuit.

the song processing realised by the NCM, which is reflected by genic activation. We test the ZENK activation of the NCM by species-specific sounds mixed with different levels of noise. In order to know if these conspecific signals were successfully recognised against the background noise, we also observe the birds’ behavioural responses elicited by these stimuli.

2. Materials and methods 2.1. Subjects Twenty-three adult male Zebra finches (Taeniopygya guttata) served as the subjects for this experiment and were naive to all testing procedures. These birds were bred in our aviary (12:12 h light/dark photoperiod with adapted wavelengths; food and water ad libitum; temperature between 23 and 25 ◦ C). All experiments occurred between 9 and 12 a.m. During isolation and stimulation periods, conditions of temperature, food and water were the same as in the aviary. The experimental protocols were approved by the Jean Monnet University’s Animal Care Committee. 2.2. Stimuli The original signal (conspecific signal: CS) was a sequence of songs and calls recorded in our aviary (recorded with a Beyerdynamic M69TG microphone connected to a SONY TCD-D7 DAT recorder). We built three experimental stimuli by mixing CS with different levels of a masking noise (white noise, WN) using Syntana software [1]. The bandwidth of the masking noise was extended from 0 to 10,000 Hz (with equal energy at all frequencies). CS and WN were used as control stimuli. The three experimental

signals have different CS/WN intensity level ratios. These ratios were defined as E = 20 log(ACS /AWN ), where E represents the emergence level of the CS in dB, ACS the absolute amplitude of the CS and AWN the absolute amplitude of WN. The values of E were −3 (stimulus SN-3), −9 (stimulus SN-9) and −27 (stimulus SN-27) decibels (dB) (Fig. 2). To precise the differences between the three experimental stimuli, we calculated the amplitude envelope and the frequencies spectrum of both the stimuli and CS. Then, we assessed the correlations between the amplitude envelope of each stimulus and the CS envelope, and between the frequencies spectrum of each stimulus and the CS spectrum. The emergence of the signal over the background noise was also measured by computing the entropy of the distribution of its energy. If the signal emerges strongly from the background noise, it will largely modify the time distribution of the energy of the signal. On the contrary, a bird signal lost in the background noise will not significantly modify the distribution of energy over time. The entropy H was calculated according to the method described in Beecher [5]. To obtain the normalised entropy H , ranging between 0 and 1, H was divided by its maximum value. So, a value of H near 1 characterises a signal almost lost in the background noise. The entropy value of each experimental signal as well as the comparisons between their amplitude envelopes and their frequencies spectrum to those of the CS signal give a good picture of the different degradations of the original signal obtained in each stimulus (Table 1). It appears that all three experimental stimuli differ greatly from the control signal. However, the stimulus SN-27 is much degraded, whereas the stimulus SN-3 conserves the main characteristics of CS. The degradation of the stimulus SN-9 appears to be intermediate between SN-3 and SN-27.

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Fig. 2. Representation of the different experimental stimuli: CS (conspecific signal), WN (white noise), SN-3 (signal-to-noise ratio = −3 dB), SN-9 (signal-to-noise ratio = −9 dB) and SN-27 (signal-to-noise ratio = −27 dB). Above: spectrographs; below: oscillographs.

2.3. Neurobiological experiments 2.3.1. Acoustic stimulation procedure Each bird (n = 17) was acoustically isolated for 48 h prior to the start of stimulus presentation. The birds were housed on a 12:12 h light/dark photoperiod, except in the last 6 h and during the stimulation period where they were in darkness in order to avoid any uncontrolled stimulation of the NCM by spontaneous singing behaviour. The emission chain was composed of a high fidelity speaker (JBL TLX 12) connected to a DAT recorder (SONY DTC-ZE 700). Each subject was presented with one of the playback stimuli (SN-3, SN-9, SN-27, WN, CS) for 30 min (sound level: 70 dB at 1 m), followed immediately by 30 min of silence, during which the animal was kept inside the isolation chamber. Each of the stimuli SN-3, SN-9, SN-27, WN were presented to three different birds. The stimulus CS was presented to two birds. Three birds were kept all the time in silence (SIL) as control.

2.3.2. Tissue preparation The bird was killed by decapitation 1 h after the start of the stimulation period, which is within the time of peak ZENK protein expression [23]. The brain was then frozen on liquid nitrogen. Brain sections (10 ␮m) were performed in the sagittal plane using a cryostat. 2.3.3. Immunocytochemistry (ICC) The sections were mounted onto slides precoated with 3-aminopropyl triethoxysilane (Sigma Laboratories, St. Louis, MO, USA) and air dried overnight. Each of the following steps was followed by three washes (10 min each) in 0.1 M phosphate buffer (PB). First, slides were fixed in 4% paraformaldehyde for 10 min. Next, slides were incubated as follows: (1) 30 min at room temperature (RT) in blocking solution (BS) (0.5% albumin and 0.3% Triton X-100 in PB 0.1 M); (2) 18 h at 4 ◦ C in a commercially available Egr-1 antibody (Santa Cruz Biotechnology, catalog # sc-189) diluted at 1:1000 in BS; (3) biotin blocking treatment (Vector Laboratories, Burlingame, USA) at RT; (4) 2 h at RT in biotinylated

Table 1 Comparisons showing the degradation of the original signal obtained in the three stimuli Stimulus

WN

SN-27

SN-9

SN-3

CS

Correlation between the amplitude envelope of the stimulus and the amplitude envelope of CS Correlation between the frequency spectrum of the stimulus and the frequency spectrum of CS Entropy

0.00

0.00

0.20

0.52

1.00

0.00

0.49

0.60

0.77

1.00

1.00

0.99

0.96

0.81

0.00

The stimulus SN-27 (signal-to-noise ratio = −27 dB) is much degraded, whereas the stimulus SN-3 (signal-to-noise ratio = −3 dB) conserves the main characteristics of CS (conspecific signal). The degradation of the stimulus SN-9 (signal-to-noise ratio = −9 dB) appears to be intermediate between SN-3 and SN-27.

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goat anti-rabbit IgG (Sigma Laboratories, B7389) diluted at 1:200 in BS; (5) 1 h 30 min at RT in avidin–biotin peroxidase complex (Sigma Laboratories) diluted at 1:50 in BS, following by a incubation in 3,3 -diaminobenzidine (DAB) (DAB Kit, Vector Laboratories). Reaction time in the DAB was held constant at 5 min across all different ICC runs. Controls were run by omitting the primary Egr-1 antibody used in step (2). Finally, the sections were dehydrated and coverslipped with Depex. 2.3.4. Quantification of ZENK expression and statistical analyses In order to quantify the level of ZENK expression in each subject following stimulation, we took 6–8 sections in the medial-part of the NCM, concentrated within 700 ␮m of the midline. The images of the sections were captured in grey levels via a video camera (SONY Hyper HAD) mounted on top of a microscope (LEICA DMLB, 10× objective, 10× eyepiece). We quantified the NCM’s labelling into a sampling window, which boundaries were defined as follows: we took a rectangle, which size was 700 ␮m×1000 ␮m, and we placed this rectangle just under the ventricle separating NCM from hippocampus and before the rostral border of NCM defined by a band of very light ZENK expression (Field L). We counted the number of ZENK immunoreactive cells within these references boundaries using NIH Image software. The experimentator who counted the immunoreactive cells was blind to all experimental conditions. We defined a threshold corresponding to the grey level above which a cluster of pixels (corresponding to the size of the nucleus of NCM cells) was considered signal, and below which it was considered noise [12]. The threshold used for each sample is defined from the maximum grey level observed on control section (ICC omitting the primary Egr-1 antibody). The number of ZENK immunoreactive cells (NI) for each type of stimulus was obtained with the mean of the values measured for the different subjects. Differences between stimuli were examined using an analysis of variance

(ANOVA, P = 0.05). Complementary test (Fisher PLSD, P = 0.05) was made to compare differences between means. All means were expressed with their corresponding standard errors (S.E.M.). 2.4. Behavioural experiments 2.4.1. Playback procedure Each tested bird (n = 6) was placed in the experimental cage 2 h prior to the start of stimulus presentation. This cage was in a soundproof chamber placed in a 12:12 h light/dark photoperiod. The experimental cage (240 cm × 50 cm × 50 cm) was equipped with roosts. A speaker connected to a DAT recorder (same equipment as for the neurobiological experiments) was placed at the right extremity of the cage. We defined three consecutive areas in the cage (Fig. 3), the area no. 1 was the nearest and no. 3 was the farthest from the speaker. During the playback test (duration: 14 min), the bird heard WN, except at the 5th min, the 8th min and the 11th min when he heard 40 s of one of the three experimental stimuli: SN-3, SN-9, SN-27. For each subject, the order of the three experimental stimuli was randomly determined, each of the six birds tested heard therefore one of the six possible combinations. During the playback test, the locomotion activity of the bird was observed and its vocal activity recorded with a microphone (Beyerdynamic M69TG) connected to a DAT recorder (SONY TCD-D7). 2.4.2. Responses analysis During a playback test and for each experimental stimulus, six behavioural parameters were measured. Three parameters reflecting the vocal activity: 1. The response score (RS): A one point score was attributed to the stimulus if the bird emitted at least one call during the all stimulus presentation (40 s), and no point was attributed if the bird had no vocal activity. The

Fig. 3. Schematic illustration of the experimental cage. A speaker connected to a DAT recorder was placed at the right extremity of the cage. We defined three consecutive areas: the area no. 1 was the nearest and no. 3 was the farthest from the speaker. This cage was in a soundproof chamber placed in a 12:12 h light/dark photoperiod.

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total scores obtained for the three different experimental stimuli were compared with a χ2 test. 2. The number of calls (NC): We noted the total number of calls emitted during each type of stimulus. The values of NC obtained for the three experimental stimuli were compared using an analysis of variance (ANOVA, P = 0.05), after being transformed in ln(NC + 1), in order to homogenise the variances. Each couple of values of NC obtained for two of the experimental stimuli were compared using complementary test (Fisher PLSD, P = 0.05). 3. The latency score (LS): For each bird, we gave for each stimulus a score: the stimulus which had the briefest time of latency (time between the start of the stimulus and the first call emitted by the bird) received three points, the second two points and the last one point. In case of no response to a stimulus, no point was obtained by this stimulus. The values of LS obtained for the three experimental stimuli were compared using an analysis of variance (ANOVA, P = 0.05). Each couple of values of LS obtained for two of the experimental stimuli were compared using complementary test (Fisher PLSD, P = 0.05). Three parameters reflecting the locomotion activity: 1. The percentage of approaches (PA): The number of approaches to the speaker (for instance, approach of the bird from the area no. 3 to the area no. 2) was referred to the total number of movements between two different areas in the cage. 2. The percentage of entry in area no. 1 (PE): Among approaches, we noted the part of entry in area no. 1. 3. The percentage of time spent in area no. 1 (PS): We measured the time spent in area no. 1 which was referred to the total duration of the test.

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These three parameters were compared with a χ2 generalised test.

3. Results 3.1. Neurobiological experiments We observed ZENK-ICC labelling of NCM’s cells in response to the presentation of each acoustic stimuli (SN-3, SN-9, SN-27, WN, CS, SIL), but the level of ZENK expression varied considerably among stimuli (Fig. 4). The effect of the type of acoustic stimulus is statistically significant (ANOVA, F = 14.7707, P = 0.0001) (Fig. 5). The NI was significantly higher in response to the stimuli CS, SN-3 and SN-9 than to the stimuli SN-27, WN and SIL (PLSD, P < 0.05). On one hand, no significant difference can be revealed between ZENK expression in response to CS, SN-3 and SN-9 (PLSD, P > 0.05). On the other hand and as a previous study observed [26], the level of ZENK expression was similar in response to silence (SIL) than to WN (PLSD, P > 0.05). Moreover, SN-27 induced no significantly higher ZENK expression neither than SIL (PLSD, P > 0.05) nor than WN (PLSD, P > 0.05). The genomic activation of the NCM is then more robust in response to the stimuli CS, SN-3 and SN-9 than to the stimuli SN-27, WN and SIL. 3.2. Behavioural experiments The vocal activity of the bird varied considerably among acoustic stimuli (Table 2). The RS was significantly higher in response to the stimuli SN-3 and to SN-9 (χ22 = 22, P = 0.0001) than to SN-27. The LS was significantly lower in

Fig. 4. ZENK-ICC labelling of the NCM in response to the presentation of the experimental stimuli: CS (conspecific signal), SN-3 (signal-to-noise ratio = −3 dB), SN-9 (signal-to-noise ratio = −9 dB), SN-27 (signal-to-noise ratio = −27 dB), WN (white noise) and SIL (silence). The level of ZENK expression varied considerably among stimuli: the number of immunoreactive cells was higher in response to the stimuli CS, SN-3 and SN-9 than to the stimuli SN-27, WN and SIL.

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Fig. 5. Number of immunoreactive cells (NI) in response to the experimental stimuli: CS (conspecific signal), SN-3 (signal-to-noise ratio = −3 dB), SN-9 (signal-to-noise ratio = −9 dB), SN-27 (signal-to-noise ratio = −27 dB), WN (white noise) and SIL (silence). All means are represented with their corresponding standard errors (S.E.M.). Asterisk (*) indicate significant difference.

response to the stimuli SN-3 and SN-9 than to the stimulus SN-27 (ANOVA, F = 20.1, P = 0.0005 and PLSD, P < 0.05). The NC was significantly higher in response to the stimuli SN-3 than to SN-27 (ANOVA, F = 3.9015, P = 0.0495). To sum up, the vocal activity of the birds was higher (high RS, high NC and low LS) in response to stimuli SN-3 and SN-9 than to stimulus SN-27. The locomotion activity of the bird also varied with acoustic stimuli. PA and PE were higher in response to stimuli SN-3 and SN-9 than in response to stimulus SN-27 (Table 2). PS is significantly higher in response to stimuli SN-3 and SN-9 than in response to stimulus SN-27 (χ62 = 546.1386, P = 0.0001). The birds approached more the speaker in response to stimuli SN-3 and SN-9 than to stimulus SN-27. We concluded that the stimuli SN-3 and SN-9 were more attractive than the stimulus SN-27 and thus the only ones Table 2 Results of the behavioural experiments obtained for the three experimental signals SN-3, SN-9 and SN-27

SN-3 SN-9 SN-27

RS∗

NC∗

LS∗

PA

PE

PS∗

6 4 2

17.50 ± 6.07 15.83 ± 7.00 3.50 ± 2.78

9 11 2

0.57 0.83 0.28

0.23 0.33 0.08

0.29 0.38 0

RS (response score), NC (number of calls) and LS (latency score) are in arbitrary unit. PA (percentage of approaches), PE (percentage of entry in area no. 1) and PS (percentage of time spent in area no. 1) are in percentages. ∗ P < 0.05 (for each parameter: n = 6). The vocal activity of the birds is higher (high RS, high NC and low LS) in response to stimuli SN-3 and SN-9 than to stimulus SN-27. The birds approach more the speaker (high PA, PE and PS) in response to stimuli SN-3 and SN-9 than to stimulus SN-27.

to be biologically significant. The stimuli eliciting a behavioural response are also the ones eliciting a genomic activation of the NCM (SN-3 and SN-9).

4. Discussion In the present paper, we investigate if background noise modifies the song-induced genic activation of the NCM related to the perception of species specific information. On one hand, we observed that the birds respond strongly by important vocal and locomotion activities to stimuli SN-3 and SN-9 whereas they show no particular behaviour while hearing stimulus SN-27. Consequent with these results, we can conclude that the birds recognise successfully the conspecific signal in spite of the background noise in stimuli SN-3 and SN-9 but not in stimulus SN-27. This means that in the stimulus SN-27, the biological signal is under the recognition threshold of the Zebra finch. In stimuli SN-3 and SN-9, there must be at least parts of the signal which are above this recognition threshold. Indeed, −3 and −9 dB are mean values of the signal-to-noise ratios, averaged both in the temporal and frequency domains. Stimuli SN-3 and SN-9 may show temporal and frequential heterogeneities which can explain the effectiveness of recognition for both signals. The birds’ auditory system is composed of a set of band-pass filters that separate the frequencies in the sound spectrum [15]. A measure of the signal-to-noise ratio necessary for the detection of a sound in a background noise is given by the critical masking ratio. This ratio corresponds to the minimal emergence (in dB) that

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a sound should have to be detected against the background noise. As in other bird species, the critical masking ratio of the Zebra finch is a linear function of the log of frequency. Between 500 Hz and 8 kHz, the critical ratio function can thus be described by the following linear regression equation: CR (in dB) = 0.992 × 10 log(frequency in Hz) − 4.89 [25]. This corresponds to about 3 dB (SPL) increase in critical ratio with each doubling of frequency [25]. For our experimental signals, we used a broad-band noise with equal energy among the spectrum. The impact of the masking by the background noise thus varies with the frequency: the higher the frequency, the bigger the masking effect. The sounds emitted by the Zebra finch are essentially complex ones, constituted of fundamental frequency associated with harmonic series. Studies on acoustic communication in penguins [2] and in fur seals [7], both animals using complex sounds, have clearly demonstrated that the lack of part of the harmonic series in such signals do not impair signal recognition since there is a great redundancy of information within the sound. This may be the case in the Zebra finch also. Then, in stimuli SN-3 and SN-9, the low part of the spectrum is likely to still emerge from the noise, allowing the signal recognition by the receiver bird. On the other hand, the ZENK activation is more robust in response to stimuli SN-3 and SN-9 than to stimulus SN-27. Noisy stimuli (SN-3, SN-9) still elicit ZENK response as CS do and only a high level of noise (SN-27) abolishes the ZENK activation as obtained with white noise (WN) or silence (SIL). The number of ZENK immunoreactive cells induced by conspecific song thus is not modified by adding background noise as far as the song recognition remains possible for the bird. In fact, results show that the levels of background noise allowing a successful recognition of species-specific information are the ones permitting the same ZENK activation as in response to conspecific song. On the contrary, at very high level of background noise, the recognition of conspecific song becomes impossible and the ZENK activation is abolished. Auditory information reaches NCM by way of Field L complex which is the highest processing centre of the ascending auditory pathway in birds and analogous to the primary auditory cortex of mammals [19,30]. The ZENK inactivity in the NCM following the hearing of a very noisy signal could thus be due to inactivity of this primary auditory processing area. However, this seems highly improbable since previous studies show that the Field L complex is responsive to any auditory input in awake birds. Moreover, electrophysiological studies in the NCM showed that white noise elicits an electrophysiological response significantly different from basal activity, although inferior to the one elicited by conspecific songs [28,29]. On the contrary, ZENK activity in the NCM is highly dependent on the stimulus, being greatest when bird hears the song of its own species [19]. Thus, on one hand the NCM receives input from Field L even if the auditory stimulus is not a pertinent signal for

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the animal, but on the other hand ZENK expression in the NCM is specifically associated with the sound of conspecific song. From our study, it thus appears that a high genic activation of the NCM does not necessarily require the audition of an undegraded species-specific signal. Nevertheless, it requires that the signal still contains sufficient information to allow successful recognition against noise and therefore to elicit a behavioural response. In the same way, a signal which does not carry sufficient quantity of information (e.g. a stimulus which has the same amplitude envelope as a conspecific song but a white noise spectral content) does not elicit a zenk gene response in the NCM [26]. In the real world of the Zebra finch, the spectro-temporal pattern of environmental noise differs from the ones of the wide-band noise used in our experiments. Especially, natural environmental noises show temporal fluctuations in both amplitude and frequency domains whereas our experimental noise has a constant envelope and a wide-band spectrum. Moreover, during transmission through the environment, acoustic signals are modified by high-frequency filtering, reverberation and blurring of frequency and amplitude modulations which confer heterogeneities to the sound signal [9,18,32]. This will facilitate signal detection and recognition by increasing spectro-temporal release from masking. In a recent paper dealing with call perception in budgerigars Melopsittacus undulatus, canary Serinus canaria and Zebra finch, Lohr et al. [17] emphasise that it is more difficult to detect a signal against a background of flat noise than against a background of traffic-spectrum noise of equivalent overall dB level. Another important factor is the directionality of the auditory system: the biologically significant signal does not necessarily come from the same direction as noise, leading to a significant release from masking [10,15,16]. All these factors can increase the bird’s ability to detect and recognise noisy signals. We can assume that our experiments represent a bigger deal for the bird, and then for its neurophysiological system, than the one it experiments in natural conditions. Our results show that the genic activation of the NCM remains stable against very high levels of a wide-band background noise, as far as the signal recognition remains possible for the bird. Previous experiments [20] have shown that the hearing of a conspecific signal induces ZENK activation whereas noise is unable to do so. The present experiment shows that there is a lack of susceptibility of ZENK induction to the level of the background noise. This may indicate that the ZENK genic activation does not depend on signal-to-noise ratio but only on the effectiveness of the recognition process.

Acknowledgements This work is supported by grants from the Interdisciplinary Program “Cognition and Information Processing” (CTI 02-19) of the French Centre National de la Recherche

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Scientifique (CNRS). C.V. is supported by the French Ministry of National Education. We are grateful to Colette Bouchut and Sabine Palle for technical assistance and to Catherine Del Negro for her help on a previous draft of the manuscript.

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Background noise does not modify song-induced genic ...

Available online 1 February 2004. Abstract .... tal stimuli by mixing CS with different levels of a masking ..... istry of National Education. We are grateful to Colette.

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