Navigation Links
Birds brains reveal source of songs

Scientists have yearned to understand how the chirps and warbles of a young bird morph into the recognizable and very distinct melodies of its parents. Neuroscientists at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT now have come one step closer to understanding that process. They've shown for the first time how a particular brain region in birds serves as the source of vocal creativity.

"It's an extraordinary finding," says Sarah Bottjer of the University of Southern California. "Here's an organism that enables a direct investigation of how animals learn motor activities."

The songbird's creative, trial-and-error type of learning provides an ideal model for studying similar processes in humans, such as how a baby's babble takes on the conversational cadences and recognizable syllables of mama and papa. Likewise, the brain pathways involved in birdsong have a human counterpart, the poorly understood basal ganglia circuit, so birds may have something to teach us about our own brains and what we learn may eventually apply to human diseases that affect motor abilities, such as Parkinson's disease.

"The question we're trying to answer is how a young bird learns its song," says Professor Michale Fee of MIT's McGovern Institute about his recent study, which was published online in advance of the May issue of the free access journal, Public Library of Science Biology. "We've known there are several brain areas involved: a motor circuit for producing the song, and a learning circuit, called the AFP (for anterior forebrain pathway), that sends its output to the motor system."

Normally, the young zebra finch nursery resounds with ever-new, imperfect variations of the adult songs. Gradually, the youngsters' songs become less variable and more true to the old standards. Some years ago, Bottjer had observed that disabling a young finch's AFP circuit stopped the learning in midstream. The bird still sings, but never learns the right song. To exp lain this effect, scientists theorized that the AFP circuit helps the juvenile compare its immature efforts with its parent's (usually the father's) example. That hypothesis, however, did not explain how all the playful variability in the little bird's babble arose in the first place.

For years, nobody had followed up on that question.

"We framed the question in a different way," Fee says of his research with postdoctoral fellow Bence P. Ölveczky and graduate student Aaron Andalman. "We said, this young bird is being creative, exploring many different sounds through trial and error. We hypothesized that the AFP is the source of this creativity, generating the variations, rather than comparing them."

To test this theory, Fee's team studied finches that were just old enough to begin their vocal explorations. The researchers temporarily inactivated the part of the AFP connecting to the motor system used in producing songs. That inactivation shut down all the variability, temporarily stranding the young finch with an immature version of the song.

These results suggested that the AFP circuitry itself causes the juvenile bird's experimentation with various sounds and sequences, and that such explorations are essential to learning songs. Deactivating the AFP after a bird had already learned the correct song had no affect on its continued proficiency.

The researchers then learned that the AFP neurons produce random bursts of activity coinciding with new variations in the practice routine.

"We think the bursts of these neurons 'kick' the motor pathway that is producing a song, jarring it out of the routine and making it sing something new," Fee says. Then another, still unexplained, pathway compares that variation to the bird's memory of the father's song. Gradually, the bird gets it right more often and eventually sings only the songs of its elders.


'"/>

Source:MIT


Related biology news :

1. Birds and bats sow tropical seeds
2. Birds that make teeth
3. Birds going extinct faster due to human activities
4. Birds found to plan for the future
5. Supercomputers to focus brains on AIDS dilemma
6. Mice brains shrink during winter, impairing some learning and memory
7. Divergent life history shapes gene expression in brains of salmon
8. Jumping genes contribute to the uniqueness of individual brains
9. Experts discuss use of human stem cells in ape and monkey brains
10. Sharp older brains are not the same as younger brains
11. Animal brains hard-wired to recognize predators foot movements, Queens study suggests
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:


(Date:4/4/2017)... April 4, 2017   EyeLock LLC , a ... the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has ... the linking of an iris image with a face ... represents the company,s 45 th issued patent. ... very timely given the multi-modal biometric capabilities that have ...
(Date:3/30/2017)... March 30, 2017 The research team of ... three-dimensional (3D) fingerprint identification by adopting ground breaking 3D fingerprint minutiae ... realm of speed and accuracy for use in identification, crime investigation, ... cost. ... A research ...
(Date:3/28/2017)... The report "Video Surveillance Market ... Storage Devices), Software (Video Analytics, VMS), and Service (VSaaS, ... to 2022", published by MarketsandMarkets, the market was valued ... to reach USD 75.64 Billion by 2022, at a ... year considered for the study is 2016 and the ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/11/2017)... ... 2017 , ... ComplianceOnline’s Medical Device Summit is back for its 4th year. ... San Francisco, CA. The Summit brings together current and former FDA office bearers, regulators, ... government officials from around the world to address key issues in device compliance, quality ...
(Date:10/11/2017)... and LAGUNA HILLS, Calif. , ... of Cancer Research, London (ICR) and ... with SKY92, SkylineDx,s prognostic tool to risk-stratify patients with multiple ... as MUK nine . The University of ... is partly funded by Myeloma UK, and ICR will perform ...
(Date:10/11/2017)... ... October 11, 2017 , ... ... granted orphan drug designation to SBT-100, its novel anti-STAT3 (Signal Transducer and Activator ... osteosarcoma. SBT-100 is able to cross the cell membrane and bind intracellular STAT3 ...
(Date:10/10/2017)... ... October 10, 2017 , ... ... FirstHand program has won a US2020 STEM Mentoring Award. Representatives of the FirstHand ... Excellence in Volunteer Experience from US2020. , US2020’s mission is to change the ...
Breaking Biology Technology: