Melatonin Shapes Brain Structure In Songbirds

icult to assess in humans under ordinary circumstances, are much easier to investigate in birds.

"The common theme here is we can start out looking at a biological system by experimenting with birds and then we can raise questions that are of more fundamental significance to biomedical research in general," Bentley said. "We never would have discovered this if we had started out trying to see what melatonin is doing in humans. Now, with this discovery, we can feed back the information to other scientists and, perhaps, help them understand what is happening in other species."

The next step, the scientists say, is to find out just how melatonin and testosterone interact to encourage efficiency in brain volumes during breeding season. It is suspected, Bentley said, that it would be "energetically costly" to maintain a large volume of SCN year-round, and the influence of melatonin helps reduce that cost.

The study was supported by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council Wain Fellowship scheme (United Kingdom), the National Science Foundation, and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.


Contact: Gary Dorsey
Johns Hopkins University

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