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Practice as well as sleep may help birds learn new songs
Date:12/14/2008

the interaction of the listening followed by practice and sleep consolidation could explain how birds learn to sing new calls.

To test the role of auditory feedback on the bird's learning, the team used white noise at 100 decibels to prevent the birds from hearing themselves. In subsequent tests of their brain activity, the team found no increase in the activity after the exposure to white noise, even if the birds had listened to tutor songs. This finding demonstrated the importance of auditory feedback; after the white noise was eliminated, the birds began to learn normally.

"There is a very famous theory called the 'template theory' of birdsong learning," Margoliash said. "This theory postulates that a sensory template is formed when listening to an adult tutor, and that this template is then used to evaluate auditory feedback. We knew neither the form nor the mode of action of the template. Now we understand that the template can influence learning via sleep, and that new template information is rapidly distributed throughout the brain."

Neurons in RA do not exhibit auditory activity during the day, yet their nighttime activity patterns reflect auditory signals. Margoliash speculates that "perhaps dreams are so compelling because additional areas are recruited to process the sensory experience."


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Contact: William Harms
w-harms@uchicago.edu
773-702-8356
University of Chicago
Source:Eurekalert

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