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Using Digital Images of the Zebra Finch Song System as

  • Author(s): Grisham, William
  • Schottler, Natalie
  • McCauley, Lisa Beck
  • Pham, Anh P
  • Ruiz, Maureen L
  • Fong, Michelle C
  • Cui, Xinran
  • et al.
Abstract

Zebra finch song behavior is sexually dimorphic: males sing and females do not. The neural

system underlying this behavior is sexually dimorphic, and this sex difference is easy to quantify.

During development, the zebra finch song system can be altered by steroid hormones,

specifically estradiol, which actually masculinizes it. Because of the ease of quantification and

experimental manipulation, the zebra finch song system has great potential for use in

undergraduate labs.

Unfortunately, the underlying costs prohibit use of this system in undergraduate labs. Further, the

time required to perform a developmental study renders such undertakings unrealistic within a

single academic term.

We have overcome these barriers by creating digital tools, including an image library of song

nuclei from zebra finch brains. Students using this library replicate and extend a published

experiment examining the dose of estradiol required to masculinize the female zebra finch brain.

We have used this library for several terms, and students not only obtain significant experimental

results but also make gains in understanding content, experimental controls, and inferential

statistics (ANOVA and post-hoc tests). We have provided free access to these digital tools at

http://mdcune.psych.ucla.edu/modules/birdsong.

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