A customizable 3-dimensional digital atlas of the canary brain in multiple modalities

Michiel Vellema, Jacob Verschueren, Vincent Van Meir, Annemie Van der Linden

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Songbirds are well known for their ability to learn their vocalizations by imitating conspecific adults. This uncommon skill has led to many studies examining the behavioral and neurobiological processes involved in vocal learning. Canaries display a variable, seasonally dependent, vocal behavior throughout their lives. This trait makes this bird species particularly valuable to study the functional relationship between the continued plasticity in the singing behavior and alterations in the anatomy and physiology of the brain. In order to optimally interpret these types of studies, a detailed understanding of the brain anatomy is essential. Because traditional 2-dimensional brain atlases are limited in the information they can provide about the anatomy of the brain, here we present a 3-dimensional MRI-based atlas of the canary brain. Using multiple imaging protocols we were able to maximize the number of detectable brain regions, including most of the areas involved in song perception, learning, and production. The brain atlas can readily be used to determine the stereotactic location of delineated brain areas at any desirable head angle. Alternatively the brain data can be used to determine the ideal orientation of the brain for stereotactic injections, electrophysiological recordings, and brain sectioning. The 3-dimensional canary brain atlas presented here is freely available and is easily adaptable to support many types of neurobiological studies, including anatomical, electrophysiological, histological, explant, and tracer studies.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)352-361
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Anatomy, Artistic
  • Animals
  • Atlases as Topic
  • Brain
  • Canaries
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

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