The Journal Of Comparative Neurology
In songbirds, the learning and maintenance of song is dependent on auditory feedback, but little is known about the presence or role of other forms of sensory feedback. Here, we studied the innervation of the avian vocal organ, the syrinx, in the zebra finch. Using a combination of immunohistochemistry, immunofluorescence and neural tracing with subunit B of cholera toxin (CTB), we analysed the peripheral and central endings of the branch of the hypoglossal nerve that supplies the syrinx, the tracheosyringeal nerve. In the syringeal muscles, we show the presence of numerous choline acetyl transferase-like immunoreactive en plaque motor endplates and substance P-like immunoreactive, thin and varicose free nerve endings. Substance P-like immunoreactive free nerve endings were also present in the luminal syringeal tissues, especially in the luminal epithelium of the trachea and pessulus. Also, by a combination of immunofluorescence and transganglionic tracing following injections of CTB in the tracheosyringeal nerve, we identified as central targets of the syringeal receptors the caudolateral part of the interpolaris subnucleus of the descending trigeminal tract, a caudolateral region of the nucleus tractus solitarius, and a lateral band of the principal sensory trigeminal nucleus. Further studies are required to determine the sensory modalities of these receptors and the connections of their specific synaptic targets.