Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Songbirds Use Mental Pointer When Playing Tunes

Date:
September 5, 2002
Source:
National Science Foundation
Summary:
In a National Science Foundation (NSF) supported study at Lucent Technology's Bell Laboratories, researchers have discovered that signals serving as "mental pointers" are produced in the brains of zebra finches while they sing, and also while they dream about, or "rehearse," their song during sleep.

That spontaneous serenade from the zebra finch is not only more rehearsed than cellist Yo-Yo Ma's chamber music, but the bird even keeps its "finger" on its mental sheet music both day and night. In a National Science Foundation (NSF) supported study at Lucent Technology's Bell Laboratories, researchers have discovered that signals serving as "mental pointers" are produced in the brains of zebra finches while they sing, and also while they dream about, or "rehearse," their song during sleep.

This long-term, fundamental neural research is helping scientists understand brain mechanisms and, specifically, how the brain produces signals for motor control and learning. By studying how songbirds learn their songs, scientists hope to understand how humans learn to speak.

The finch's brain "circuits" are similar to the parts of the human brain that handle motor control and learning despite the obvious size difference.

The findings were published Sept. 5 in the journal Nature.

Zebra finches have only one song that lasts about a second. At one month old, a finch first tries to sing a song that it memorized while listening to its father sing. While awake, it continues to practice singing thousands of times a day. Then it also mentally rehearses while asleep, as discovered in a different study. The finch can repeat the song perfectly after about two months practice.

Dr. Michale Fee of the lab's Biological Computation Research Department found that a finch uses individual neural signals lasting 6/1000 of a second to mark its place as it sings. "I hate to use the 'follow the bouncing ball' example, but that's basically what it is," said Fee.

"Knowledge of timing cues such as those used by the songbirds may give us insight into how humans learn chunks of material through patterns and sequences," said Christopher Platt, a program director with the National Science Foundation's neuroscience program. "There seem to be a lot of parallels between how the birds learn songs and how humans learn speech. This will help the scientific community take the next steps in figuring out the biology of learning."

The scientists next intend to study the source of these signals.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Science Foundation. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

National Science Foundation. "Songbirds Use Mental Pointer When Playing Tunes." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 September 2002. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/09/020905064114.htm>.
National Science Foundation. (2002, September 5). Songbirds Use Mental Pointer When Playing Tunes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/09/020905064114.htm
National Science Foundation. "Songbirds Use Mental Pointer When Playing Tunes." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/09/020905064114.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Your Birth Season Might Determine Your Temperament

Your Birth Season Might Determine Your Temperament

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) — A new study says the season you're born in can determine your temperament — and one season has a surprising outcome. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Court Ruling Means Kids' Online Activity Could Be On Parents

Court Ruling Means Kids' Online Activity Could Be On Parents

Newsy (Oct. 17, 2014) — In a ruling attorneys for both sides agreed was a first of its kind, a Georgia appeals court said parents can be held liable for what kids put online. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Best Foods To Boost Your Mood

The Best Foods To Boost Your Mood

Buzz60 (Oct. 17, 2014) — Feeling down? Reach for the refrigerator, not the medicine cabinet! TC Newman (@PurpleTCNewman) shares some of the best foods to boost your mood. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
You Can Get Addicted To Google Glass, Apparently

You Can Get Addicted To Google Glass, Apparently

Newsy (Oct. 15, 2014) — Researchers claim they’ve diagnosed the first example of the disorder in a 31-year-old U.S. Navy serviceman. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins