Endogenous opioids facilitate intrinsically-rewarded birdsong

Sharon A. Stevenson, Alice Piepenburg, Jeremy A. Spool, Caroline S. Angyal, Allison H. Hahn, Changjiu Zhao, Lauren V. Riters
2020 Scientific Reports  
Many songbirds sing in non-reproductive contexts while in flocks. Singing in such gregarious contexts is critical for maintaining and learning songs; however, song is not directed towards other individuals and has no obvious, immediate social consequences. Studies using conditioned place preference (CPP) tests of reward indicate that song production in gregarious contexts correlates positively with a bird's intrinsic reward state and with opioid markers in the medial preoptic nucleus (mPOA).
more » ... nucleus (mPOA). However, the causal involvement of opioids in gregarious song is unknown. Here we report that the selective mu opioid receptor (MOR) agonist fentanyl dose-dependently facilitates gregarious song and reduces stress/anxiety-related behavior in male and female European starlings. Furthermore, infusion of siRNA targeting MORs specifically in mPOA both suppresses gregarious song and disrupts the positive association between affective state and singing behavior, as revealed using CPP tests of song-associated reward. Results strongly implicate opioids in gregarious song and suggest that endogenous opioids in the mPOA may facilitate song by influencing an individual's intrinsic reward state.
doi:10.1038/s41598-020-67684-1 pmid:32632172 fatcat:pv6td57ftfctdmbtihbdzggrva