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Humans and Birds May Have Music in Common
Date:1/11/2013

FRIDAY, Jan. 11 (HealthDay News) -- Goo-goo over Gaga? Rhapsodic over Rachmaninoff? As most will attest, music has a powerful way of pushing emotional buttons. And now, new research suggests that many of the neural dynamics that control human reaction to song may be shared by another emitter of dulcet tones: birds.

According to a study recently published in Frontiers of Evolutionary Science, when male white-throated sparrows offer up their telltale "birdsong" to their breeding female counterparts, the female experiences the same kind of neurologically driven "reward" that humans do when hearing a favorite tune.

"Scientists since the time of Darwin have wondered whether birdsong and music may serve similar purposes, or have the same evolutionary precursors," Sarah Earp, a former undergraduate at Emory University, explained in a school news release. "But most attempts to compare the two have focused on the qualities of the sound themselves, such as melody and rhythm."

"We found that the same neural reward system is activated in female birds in the breeding state that are listening to male birdsong, and in people listening to music that they like," she said.

Earp's investigation began by reviewing previous research that used brain-imaging technology to map the human neural dynamic that unfolds when listening to music.

Emory lab work had focused on tracking activation of a biochemical marker known as "Egr-1," a key indicator of stimulus response.

Neurological mapping comparisons revealed that, when looking at reward pathways that exist in both humans and birds, the neural response to music observed in humans also kicks into similar gear among breeding female sparrows exposed to a male birdsong.

But timing, as they say, is everything, with non-breeding female birds showing no heightened response to a male's song, while male birds hearing another male "sing" experienced a response akin to that o
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