This is the first functional MRI study to determine how vocal sounds are represented within the brain of an awake zebra finch, a well-studied animal model of vocal learning. Because of many similarities between birdsong and human speech, this research could lead to a better understanding of the cause of stuttering and other speech problems.
By using specifically-tailored high-resolution fMRI in awake, mildly sedated zebra finches, scientists were able to look at the activity in the entire avian brain during song stimulation.
"While we found that both sides of the brain were activated by sounds in the songbirds, our research showed that the right side of their brains discriminated sounds better," said Santosh A. Helekar, M.D., Ph.D., lead author of the paper. Helekar is associate research professor of neuroscience at the Methodist NI and Weill Cornell. "If we can link what we find in birds to what we already know about human brains, then we could better understand the causes of speech disorders and, in the long-run, be able to provide treatments to patients."
Helekar has long collaborated with Dr. David Rosenfield, director of the speech and language center at the Methodist NI and a nationally-renowned language expert, to study stuttering and other speech disorders.
Using the blood oxygenation level-dependent (BOLD) fMRI method, researchers observed brain response patterns in 16 adult zebra finches during playback of the birds' own song, their tutor's song, an unfamiliar zebra finch's song, and a synthetic sound of a single frequency. The songbirds' own song caused a stronger response in the auditory areas of the brain. The overall findings suggest that vocal sounds may be better represented on the right side of the brain in these songbirds.
"We don't know exactly what goes wrong with the human brain when a patient stutters or has a particular speech problem. But, if we can understand the neurobiology of the brain of this animal model and how sounds are processed by birds that produce normal and variant songs, then we may be able to translate these findings into treatments for patients with disorders such as stuttering and verbal dyspraxia," said Henning U. Voss, Ph.D., first author on the PNAS paper and assistant professor of physics in radiology at Citigroup Biomedical Imaging Center of Weill Cornell Medical College.
The vocal learning process in the zebra finch offers a model system to study the neural and behavioral mechanisms by which humans learn to produce sounds. Songbirds such as zebra finches have specialized areas of their brains devoted to communication. That is why they have been used as animal models to study speech disorders, such as stuttering. It is estimated that more than 3 million Americans stutter.
This paper appears in the PNAS Online Edition and will be published in the June 19 print issue. The research presented was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, The Methodist Hospital Research Institute and Weill Cornell Medical College, and Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft Research Center Matheon.
Co-authors include Delanthi Salgado-Commissariat of the Methodist Neurological Institute, Houston, Texas; Douglas Ballon of Citigroup Biomedical Imaging Center, Weill Cornell Medical College; Ofer Tchernichovski and Kristen K. Maul of the department of biology, City College of New York; and Karsten Tabelow and Jörg Polzehl of Weierstrass Institute for Applied Analysis and Stochastics, Berlin, Germany.About the Methodist Neurological Institute
The Methodist Hospital is one of the nation's largest private, non-profit general hospitals. Methodist is primarily affiliated with Weill Cornell Medical College and New York-Presbyterian Hospital. Methodist is also affiliated with the University of Houston.
Methodist is ranked among the country's top centers in six specialties in U.S News & World Report's 2006 America's Best Hospitals issue. The hospital ranked in more specialties than any other hospital in Houston, and is 10th in the nation for neurology and neurosurgery.
For more on the Methodist Neurological Institute, visit www.methodistneuroinstitute.com, or call (713) 790-3333.About Weill Cornell Medical College
Jonathan Weil | EurekAlert!
Drone vs. truck deliveries: Which create less carbon pollution?
31.05.2017 | University of Washington
New study: How does Europe become a leading player for software and IT services?
03.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung (ISI)
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
26.06.2017 | Life Sciences
26.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
26.06.2017 | Information Technology