Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Zebra finches remember songs dad sang

10.01.2006


Discovery of memory mechanism provides clues to how humans learn speech



Researchers at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, believe they have located a place in the brain where songbirds store the memories of their parents’ songs. The discovery has implications for humans, because humans and songbirds are among the few animals that learn to vocalize by imitating their caregivers.

In a paper published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, David Vicario and Mimi Phan of Rutgers, and Carolyn Pytte of Wesleyan University, report that songbirds store the memory of caregivers’ songs in a part of the brain involved in hearing. This suggests the auditory version of the caregiver’s song is stored first, and that it may serve to guide the vocal learning process. The paper is titled "Early Auditory Experience Generates Long-Lasting Memories That May Subserve Vocal Learning in Songbirds."


"There is independent evidence, notably from work done by Patricia Kuhl of the University of Washington in Seattle, that something similar may underlie the acquisition of human speech by infants and, thus, be part of the mechanism that allows kids to learn any human language if they start early enough," Vicario says.

"These findings are exciting," Kuhl says of the research reported in the paper. "They provide neurobiological evidence that helps explain human infants’ acquisition of speech."

Vicario, Phan and Pytte worked with zebra finches, tiny songbirds native to Australia and favored by researchers because they breed well in captivity and all year- round. There are other animals that also learn vocalizations by imitating members of their species – whales, dolphins and parrots, for instance – but they take a long time to mature, are endangered or are too difficult to work with in laboratories.

Vicario, an associate professor of psychology, and Phan, a postdoctoral associate in psychology, study sensorimotor processes involved in the acquisition and production of learned behaviors. Pytte, a postdoctoral associate in the department of biology at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., studies the neurobiology of song production. The team performed the experiments reported in the paper in Vicario’s lab, where he raises zebra finches, Bengalese finches and canaries.

The father contributes equally to childcare in zebra finch families and does all the singing, Vicario says. "In everyday English, ’song’ and ’call’ mean the same thing, but in scientific language, they’re different," Vicario says. "Calls communicate information about food and predators, and males and females both use them," he says. "A song is a vocal behavior used in male-male interactions and in courtship of females, and in most songbird species, only the male sings." A young zebra finch will hear his father’s song, remember and imitate it. At first, the bird’s efforts are clumsy – the songbird equivalent of a baby’s first babbling syllables. But eventually, the young bird manages an almost complete copy of his parent’s song that includes some improvised elements.

Birdsong scientists use the word "tutor" to describe the bird whose song the young bird copies and remembers because they’ve found that a young songbird will form a memory of any adult’s song heard during a key period in infancy. In fact, the young bird will remember and imitate the songs of songbirds from other species, provided they fall within a certain range. When offered a choice, however, between recorded songs from their own species and those of other species, the young birds pick their own species.

"If the processes of learning in young birds and human babies have formal similarities, which it now seems they do, then studying the songbird brain can tell us how this imitation trick is actually performed by cells in the brain," Vicario says. "The bird’s brain provides a laboratory for studying how memories that underlie vocal learning are stored in the brain and how the stored memories are used to guide the development of vocalization."

Ken Branson | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.rutgers.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Symbiotic bacteria: from hitchhiker to beetle bodyguard
28.04.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

nachricht Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis
28.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Grenzflächen- und Bioverfahrenstechnik IGB

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Fighting drug resistant tuberculosis – InfectoGnostics meets MYCO-NET² partners in Peru

28.04.2017 | Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Wireless power can drive tiny electronic devices in the GI tract

28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering

Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past

28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

28.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>