Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Super song learners

23.10.2013
Most songbirds learn their songs from an adult model, mostly from the father.

However, there are relatively large differences in the accuracy how these songs are copied. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen now found in juvenile zebra finches a possible mechanism that is responsible for the differences in the intensity of song learning.


An adult zebra finch (male) with a juvenile male.

© MPI f. Ornithology/Leitner

They provided the nerve growth factor “BDNF” to the song control system in the brain. With this treatment the learning ability in juvenile males could be enhanced in such a way that they were able to copy the songs of the father as good as it had been observed in the best learners in a zebra finch nest.

The improvement of cognitive abilities plays an important role in the therapy of neurological and psychiatric diseases. In this context research focusses more and more on the protein BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor). BDNF is mainly responsible for the preservation, growth and differentiation of nerve cells. Moreover, from experiments in mice it is known that BDNF enhances the ability to solve complex cognitive tasks.

In a learning experiment with zebra finches, researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen in collaboration with scientists from the Free University of Amsterdam could now show for the first time in songbirds that BDNF acts as cognitive enhancer. They investigated zebra finch brother pairs that grew up with their genetic parents.

In this setup juvenile birds will readily learn the songs from their fathers. However there are differences in the intensity of song learning among siblings of the same age. The worst learners have only a similarity of 20% with their fathers’ songs, whereas the best learners copy almost the entire songs of their fathers.

By now knowing the normal distribution of the learned songs within a zebra finch nest, as a next step the researchers were able to investigate the impact of BDNF on song learning. In one of the two brothers they enhanced the expression of BDNF in the song control system in the brain while the other brother did not get such a treatment. By analysing the songs the researchers found that those sons that received more BDNF had a higher similarity with the song of their fathers compared to normally reared juveniles. Remarkably, the learning efficiency in the BDNF-treated birds was as high as it has been previously observed in the best learners within the nest.

This was due to an earlier onset of syllable copying in BDNF-treated birds and these birds also copied more and sang fewer improvised syllables. Therefore it is likely that the presence of BDNF in the song control system could correct possible inaccuracies in the song learning process, state the scientists around Manfred Gahr, who is the senior author of the study.

Contact

Dr. Falk Dittrich
Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Seewiesen
Phone: +49 8157 932-272
Email: dittrich@­orn.mpg.de
Dr. Stefan Leitner
Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Seewiesen
Phone: +49 8157 932-421
Fax: +49 8157 932-209
Email: leitner@­orn.mpg.de
Original publication
Dittrich, F., ter Maat, A., Jansen, R.F., Pieneman, A., Hertel, M., Frankl-Vilches, C., Gahr, M.
Maximized song learning of juvenile male zebra finches following BDNF expression in the HVC

European Journal of Neuroscience, doi:10.1111/ejn.12329

Dr. Sabine Spehn | Max-Planck-Institut
Further information:
http://www.mpg.de/7580423/zebra-finches-song-learning

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Multi-institutional collaboration uncovers how molecular machines assemble
02.12.2016 | Salk Institute

nachricht Fertilized egg cells trigger and monitor loss of sperm’s epigenetic memory
02.12.2016 | IMBA - Institut für Molekulare Biotechnologie der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften GmbH

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer ISE Develops Highly Compact, High Frequency DC/DC Converter for Aviation

The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses

02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product

02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?

02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>