UCLA Department of Psychology
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.
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
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