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Bird Song Study Provides Clues to Human Speech Disorders

the auditory areas of the brain. On the whole, findings suggest that vocal sounds may be better represented on the right side of the brain in these songbirds.

"We don't know exactly what goes wrong with the human brain when a patient stutters or has a particular speech problem. But, if we can understand the neurobiology of the brain of this animal model and how sounds are processed by birds that produce normal and variant songs, then we may be able to translate these findings into treatments for patients with disorders such as stuttering and verbal dyspraxia," said Henning U. Voss, Ph.D., first author on the PNAS paper and assistant professor of physics in radiology at Citigroup Biomedical Imaging Center of Weill Cornell Medical College.

The vocal learning process in the zebra finch offers a model system to study the neural and behavioral mechanisms by which humans learn to make sounds. Songbirds such as zebra finches have specialized areas of their brains dedicated to communication. That is why they have been used as animal models to study speech disorders, such as stuttering. It is estimated that more than 3 million Americans stutter.

The research was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, The Methodist Hospital Research Institute and Weill Cornell Medical College, and Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft Research Center Matheon.


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