Researcher ORCID Identifier


Graduation Year


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Melissa Coleman

Reader 2

Tessa Solomon-Lane

Rights Information

© 2024 Divya Ahuja


Social behaviors like pair bonding can modulate neural pathways but the evolutionary conservation of these mechanisms is not clear. Zebra finches, a socially monogamous songbird, are a model system to study these mechanisms. Male song is a signal of sexual fitness and paired females develop a preference for their partner’s song. We studied the formation and maintenance of pair bonding in zebra finches via two experiments. Studies suggest the caudomedial nidopallium (NCM), the secondary auditory cortex, and the striatum to be involved in pair bonding. In experiment 1, we compared the neuronal activity in paired and unpaired females in response to song to identify these brain regions. IEG activity was visualized and quantified via a immunohistochemistry assay. We found that IEG activity was higher in the striatum in paired females and similar in the NCM across both groups. This result confirms the involvement of the striatum and NCM in pair bond maintenance. In experiment 2, we investigated the effect of signaling molecules like dopamine (D2R) and serotonin (5-HTa1) agonists on pair bond formation by artificially administering them to female finches. We evaluated the preference of females for familiar or unfamiliar male songs using an operant conditioning paradigm. Our data suggests that both dopamine and serotonin are involved in pair bond formation. Serotonin, through 5-HTa1 receptors, significantly increased female preference for partner song. These results suggest specific anatomical regions and neurochemical pathways that are involved in pair bonding, may be evolutionarily conserved across taxa.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.