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 New risk factors for anxiety disorders
24.02.2017 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

nachricht Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers
24.02.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

New risk factors for anxiety disorders

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

MWC 2017: 5G Capital Berlin

24.02.2017 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>