Maternal hen calls modulate memory formation in the day-old chick: The role of noradrenaline

Simone Field, Nikki Sue Rickard, Samia Rachael Toukhsati, Marie Elizabeth Gibbs

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29 Citations (Scopus)


Facilitation of memory for discriminative learning in young chicks is enhanced following exposure to a synthesized rhythmic auditory stimulus. Increased arousal, mediated by noradrenergic activation, is believed to underlie this effect. In this report we examine whether ethologically relevant rhythmic auditory stimuli produce the same noradrenaline-mediated memory enhancement in neonate chicks (Gallus gallus domesticus). Maternal hen attraction calls which contained a rhythmic pattern were found to facilitate retention. Intracerebral injection of noradrenaline or the beta(2)-adrenergic antagonist propranolol demonstrated that this enhancement is likely to be mediated by noradrenergic activation of central beta(2)-noradrenergic receptors. In contrast, a rhythmic alarm call inhibited retention. Subcutaneous injection of the alpha(1)-adrenergic antagonist prazosin revealed that this impairment may be due to higher arousal levels resulting in activation of alpha(1)-noradrenergic receptors. It is concluded that the maternal hen calls of domestic chickens can influence the memory ability of the offspring via noradrenaline release in the brain. The current data suggest that call meaning and rhythmicity interact to yield the appropriate levels of beta(2)-adrenergic activation required to facilitate retention for a discriminative task.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)321 - 330
Number of pages10
JournalNeurobiology of Learning and Memory
Publication statusPublished - 2007

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