Vocal learning species must form and extensively hone associations between sounds and social contingencies. In songbirds, dopamine signaling guides song motor-production, variability, and motivation, but it is unclear how dopamine regulates fundamental auditory associations for learning new sounds. We hypothesized that dopamine regulates learning in the auditory pallium, in part by interacting with local neuroestradiol signaling. Here, we show that zebra finch auditory neurons frequently coexpress D1 receptor (D1R) protein, neuroestradiol-synthase, GABA, and parvalbumin. Auditory classical conditioning increased neuroplasticity gene induction in D1R-positive neurons. In vitro, D1R pharmacological activation reduced the amplitude of GABAergic and glutamatergic currents, and increased the latter’s frequency. In vivo, D1R activation reduced the firing of putative interneurons, increased the firing of putative excitatory neurons, and made both neuronal types unable to adapt to novel stimuli. Together, these data support the hypothesis that dopamine acting via D1Rs modulates learning and memory in the songbird sensory cortex.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience