Supplementary Material for: Vocal Parameters That Indicate Threat Level Correlate with FOS Immunolabeling in Social and Vocal Control Brain Regions

posted on 17.12.2011 by Ellis J.M.S., Riters L.V.
Transmitting information via communicative signals is integral to interacting with conspecifics, and some species achieve this task by varying vocalizations to reflect context. Although signal variation is critical to social interactions, the underlying neural control has not been studied. In response to a predator, black-capped chickadees (Poecile atricapilla) produce mobbing calls (chick-a-dee calls) with various parameters, some of which convey information about the threat stimulus. We predicted that vocal parameters indicative of threat would be associated with distinct patterns of neuronal activity within brain areas involved in social behavior and those involved in the sensorimotor control of vocal production. To test this prediction, we measured the syntax and structural aspects of chick-a-dee call production in response to a hawk model and assessed the protein product of the immediate early gene FOS in brain regions implicated in context-specific vocal and social behavior. These regions include the medial preoptic area (POM) and lateral septum (LS), as well as regions involved in vocal motor control, including the dorsomedial nucleus of the intercollicular complex and the HVC. We found correlations linking call rate (previously demonstrated to reflect threat) to labeling in the POM and LS. Labeling in the HVC correlated with the number of D notes per call, which may also signal threat level. Labeling in the call control region dorsomedial nucleus was associated with the structure of D notes and the overall number of notes, but not call rate or type of notes produced. These results suggest that the POM and LS may influence attributes of vocalizations produced in response to predators and that the brain region implicated in song control, the HVC, also influences call production. Because variation in chick-a-dee call rate indicates predator threat, we speculate that these areas could integrate with motor control regions to imbue mobbing signals with additional information about threat level.