Altering opioid neuromodulation in the songbird basal ganglia modulates vocalizations

Sandeep Kumar, Alok Nath Mohapatra, Hanuman Prasad Sharma, Utkarsha A. Singh, Niranjan Ashok Kambi, Thirumurthy Velpandian, Raghav Rajan, Soumya Iyengar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although the interplay between endogenous opioids and dopamine (DA) in the basal ganglia (BG) is known to underlie diverse motor functions, few studies exist on their role in modulating speech and vocalization. Vocal impairment is a common symptom of Parkinson’s disease (PD), wherein DA depletion affects striosomes rich in μ-opioid receptors (μ-ORs). Symptoms of opioid addiction also include deficiencies in verbal functions and speech. To understand the interplay between the opioid system and BG in vocalization, we used adult male songbirds wherein high levels of μ-ORs are expressed in Area X, a BG region which is part of a circuit similar to the mammalian thalamocortical-basal ganglia loop. Changes in DA, glutamate and GABA levels were analyzed during the infusion of different doses of the μ-OR antagonist naloxone (50 and 100 ng/ml) specifically in Area X. Blocking μ-ORs in Area X with 100 ng/ml naloxone led to increased levels of DA in this region without altering the number of songs directed toward females (FD). Interestingly, this manipulation also led to changes in the spectro-temporal properties of FD songs, suggesting that altered opioid modulation in the thalamocortical-basal ganglia circuit can affect vocalization. Our study suggests that songbirds are excellent model systems to explore how the interplay between μ-ORs and DA modulation in the BG affects speech/vocalization.

Original languageEnglish
Article number671
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
Issue numberJUL
StatePublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2019 Kumar, Mohapatra, Sharma, Singh, Kambi, Velpandian, Rajan and Iyengar. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.


  • Basal ganglia
  • Dopamine
  • Motivation
  • Songbirds
  • Vocalization
  • Zebra finches
  • μ-opioid receptors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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