Inhibitory cell populations depend on age, sex, and prior experience across a neural network for Critical Period learning
In many ways, the complement of cell subtypes determines the information processing that a local brain circuit can perform. For example, the balance of excitatory and inhibitory (E/I) signaling within a brain region contributes to response magnitude and specificity in ways that influence the effectiveness of information processing. An extreme example of response changes to sensory information occur across Critical Periods (CPs). In primary mammalian visual cortex, GAD65 and parvalbumin inhibitory cell types in particular control experience-dependent responses during a CP. Here, we test how the density of GAD65- and parvalbumin-expressing cells may inform on a CP for complex behavioral learning. Juvenile male zebra finch songbirds (females cannot sing) learn to sing through coordinated sensory, sensorimotor, and motor learning processes distributed throughout a well-defined neural network. There is a CP is for sensory learning, the stage during which a young male forms a memory of his "tutor's" song, which is then used to guide the young bird's emerging song structure. We quantified the effect of sex and experience with a tutor on the cell densities of GAD65- and parvalbumin-expressing cells across major nodes of the song network, using ages that span the CP for tutor song memorization. As a resource, we also include whole-brain mapping data for both genes. Results indicate that inhibitory cell populations differ across sex, age, and experiential conditions, but not always in the ways we predicted.
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