Dissertations and Theses

Date of Award


Document Type




First Advisor

Osceola Whitney

Second Advisor

Hoau-Yan Wang

Third Advisor

Jay Edelman


Vasopressin, Oxytocin, LMAN, HVC, Area X, Robust nucleus of Arcopallium, VP-neurophysin, OT-neurophysin


Vasopressin (VP) and Oxytocin (OT) are neuropeptides produced in the hypothalamus and expressed in the cerebrum and pituitary gland of the brain. Studies of VP and OT have long demonstrated their influence on social behaviors in mammals. Comparative analyses of these neuropeptides and in-depth analyses in non-mammalian species may reveal the specific mechanistic roles these hormones play in social behavioral functioning. The acquisition of complex behavioral patterns involves sensory-motor functions. How social interactions modulate sensory-motor mechanisms that promote complex behavior acquisition and maintenance can be well study in vocal learning birds. Here, in addition to reviewing the pertinent literature, I clone VTR1A, VTR1B, VTR2A, and OTR, as well as VP-neurophysin, OT-neurophysin, and CAMP Responsive Element Binding Protein 3 Like 1 (CREB3L1), a transcription factor involved in VP expression. I also perform immunohistochemistry experiments to examine the relative densities and distribution of VP and OT. I found that full coding sequence transcripts of those seven genes could be reliably extracted from zebra finch brain. Interestingly, the transcripts sequences for some genes varied more than those for other genes compared to genome predicted transcripts. These results suggest differences in selection pressure for genes in the vasopressin-oxytocin signaling system. In addition, the patterns of VP and OT expression in vocal-motor-control regions suggest differential contributions to the maintenance of learned vocalizations. These experiments are a first step towards understanding how social interaction in songbirds can modulate sensory-motor mechanisms that promote the acquisition and maintenance of complex behavior. Exposing the molecular mechanisms underlying learned vocal communication in this manner is relevant for understanding how conditions such as autism may interfere with learned behavior and how mechanisms evolve to shape complex behavior.



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