A pair of leading scientists who study songbirds as models for understanding the human brain and how humans acquire language say its time for the burgeoning field to begin singing a different tune and study a wider variety of species.
Michael Beecher and Eliot Brenowitz, University of Washington professors of psychology and biology, say that while a great deal of knowledge has been gleaned by studying songbirds over the past three decades, a narrow focus on just a few species only provides a fragmentary picture of how the brains of nearly 4,000 songbird species function.
Writing in companion papers in the March issues of the journals Trends in Neurosciences and Trends in Ecology and Evolution, the two UW scientists argue that there is much greater diversity in how and when birds learn to sing than is generally recognized. They say the value of the birdsong system as a model for studying how the brain controls the learning of language would be greatly enhanced by taking into account the diversity seen among different bird species.
Joel Schwarz | EurekAlert!
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