Hippocampal neurogenesis is associated with migratory behaviour in adult but not juvenile sparrows (Zonotrichia leucophrys ssp.)

Lara D. LaDage, Timothy C. Roth, Vladimir V. Pravosudov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


It has been hypothesized that individuals who have higher demands for spatially based behaviours should show increases in hippocampal attributes. Some avian species have been shown to use a spatially based representation of their environment during migration. Further, differences in hippocampal attributes have been shown between migratory and non-migratory subspecies as well as between individuals with and without migratory experience (juveniles versus adults). We tested whether migratory behaviour might also be associated with increased hippocampal neurogenesis, and whether potential differences track previously reported differences in hippocampal attributes between a migratory (Zonotrichia leucophrys gambelii) and non-migratory subspecies (Z. l. nuttalli) of white-crowned sparrows. We found that non-migratory adults had relatively fewer numbers of immature hippocampal neurons than adult migratory birds, while adult non-migrants had a lower density of new hippocampal neurons than adult and juvenile migratory birds and juvenile non-migratory birds. Our results suggest that neurogenesis decreases with age, as juveniles, regardless of migratory status, exhibit similar and higher levels of neurogenesis than non-migratory adults. However, our results also suggest that adult migrants may either seasonally increase or maintain neurogenesis levels comparable to those found in juveniles. Our results thus suggest that migratory behaviour in adults is associated with maintained or increased neurogenesis and the differential production of new neurons may be the mechanism underpinning changes in the hippocampal architecture between adult migratory and non-migratory birds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)138-143
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1702
StatePublished - Jan 7 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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