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 Antibiotics: New substances break bacterial resistance
12.11.2019 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg

nachricht How the Zika virus can spread
11.11.2019 | Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: A new quantum data classification protocol brings us nearer to a future 'quantum internet'

The algorithm represents a first step in the automated learning of quantum information networks

Quantum-based communication and computation technologies promise unprecedented applications, such as unconditionally secure communications, ultra-precise...

Im Focus: Distorted Atoms

In two experiments performed at the free-electron laser FLASH in Hamburg a cooperation led by physicists from the Heidelberg Max Planck Institute for Nuclear physics (MPIK) demonstrated strongly-driven nonlinear interaction of ultrashort extreme-ultraviolet (XUV) laser pulses with atoms and ions. The powerful excitation of an electron pair in helium was found to compete with the ultrafast decay, which temporarily may even lead to population inversion. Resonant transitions in doubly charged neon ions were shifted in energy, and observed by XUV-XUV pump-probe transient absorption spectroscopy.

An international team led by physicists from the MPIK reports on new results for efficient two-electron excitations in helium driven by strong and ultrashort...

Im Focus: A Memory Effect at Single-Atom Level

An international research group has observed new quantum properties on an artificial giant atom and has now published its results in the high-ranking journal Nature Physics. The quantum system under investigation apparently has a memory - a new finding that could be used to build a quantum computer.

The research group, consisting of German, Swedish and Indian scientists, has investigated an artificial quantum system and found new properties.

Im Focus: Shedding new light on the charging of lithium-ion batteries

Exposing cathodes to light decreases charge time by a factor of two in lithium-ion batteries.

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory have reported a new mechanism to speed up the charging of lithium-ion...

Im Focus: Visible light and nanoparticle catalysts produce desirable bioactive molecules

Simple photochemical method takes advantage of quantum mechanics

Northwestern University chemists have used visible light and extremely tiny nanoparticles to quickly and simply make molecules that are of the same class as...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

High entropy alloys for hot turbines and tireless metal-forming presses

05.11.2019 | Event News

Smart lasers open up new applications and are the “tool of choice” in digitalization

30.10.2019 | Event News

International Symposium on Functional Materials for Electrolysis, Fuel Cells and Metal-Air Batteries

02.10.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

How the Zika virus can spread

11.11.2019 | Life Sciences

Researchers find new potential approach to type 2 diabetes treatment

11.11.2019 | Health and Medicine

Medica 2019: Arteriosclerosis - new technologies help to find proper catheters and location of vasoconstriction

11.11.2019 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>