Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Singers (and Parents) Take Note: Worst Songbird Rehearsals Precede Best Debuts

Date:
March 1, 2005
Source:
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Summary:
According to a new study, sleep helps young birds learn the art of song, but it does so in a surprising way. The study reveals that when zebra finches first wake up, they are dramatically worse singers than they were the previous day. Moreover, individual birds that initially perform the worst during their morning "rehearsals" eventually become the best singers of all.

According to a study published this week in Nature (February 17), sleep helps young birds learn the art of song, but it does so in a surprising way. The study reveals that when zebra finches first wake up, they are dramatically worse singers than they were the previous day. Moreover, individual birds that initially perform the worst during their morning "rehearsals" eventually become the best singers of all.

Related Articles


Vocal learning in songbirds bears similarities to human speech development: Novice birds go through a period of "screeching" before learning to imitate songs accurately, much as babies babble before grasping words. Therefore, the new research points to the need for a quantitative study of the effects of sleep on learning in human infants, says Partha Mitra, a theoretical neuroscientist at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory who participated in the research

The study examined the effect of sleep on song learning in young zebra finches. Individuals of this species are active in the daytime, do not sing in darkness, and develop their song during a critical window of brain "plasticity" between one and three months after hatching.

In order to learn to sing, it's known that young birds must hear an adult song, and through practice, develop their own version of the tune by comparing their vocalizations to a memory template of the song that they "hear in their heads."

Interestingly, researchers have previously found that zebra finch brain neurons involved in vocal learning display patterns of activity while the birds are asleep that are similar to the patterns observed while awake birds are singing. Until now, however, there has been no direct evidence that sleep affects song learning, and if so, how. (See image)

To collect the data used in the study, City College New York behavioral neuroscientists Ofer Tchernichovski and Sébastien Derégnaucourt recorded every vocalization--approximately a million syllables per bird--made by 12 young male zebra finches over several months as the birds learned to imitate and perfect their own renditions of recorded adult male zebra finch songs.

To assess the musical progress or lack thereof of the young birds, the City College group collaborated with Mitra to develop algorithms that became the basis of powerful software for analyzing the structure and patterns of animal vocalizations (Sound Analysis Pro).

Surprisingly, instead of showing gradual improvement in which they might wake up each day and "pick up where they left off" in their vocal abilities, many of the birds displayed dramatic degradation in the quality of their songs relative to how well they performed at the end of the previous day. However, the quality of these birds' songs improved after intense morning rehearsal to the point where by the end of each new day, their singing was indeed better than the day before.

The study yielded another counterintuitive result, namely, that birds which ultimately learn to sing better than others (by the end of the three month learning period) actually awaken from sleep each day as poorer singers than their ultimately less tuneful counterparts (i.e. they have "stronger post-sleep deterioration" of song development).

"We have more work to do to explain this 'one step back, two steps forward' effect of sleep on the brain circuits that govern vocal learning. But a useful analogy for now is the tempering of steel, in which to gain its ultimate structure and strength, it is first weakened," says Mitra.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. "Singers (and Parents) Take Note: Worst Songbird Rehearsals Precede Best Debuts." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 March 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/02/050223122328.htm>.
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. (2005, March 1). Singers (and Parents) Take Note: Worst Songbird Rehearsals Precede Best Debuts. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 18, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/02/050223122328.htm
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. "Singers (and Parents) Take Note: Worst Songbird Rehearsals Precede Best Debuts." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/02/050223122328.htm (accessed April 18, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Un-Bee-Lievable: Bees on the Loose After Washington Truck Crash

Un-Bee-Lievable: Bees on the Loose After Washington Truck Crash

Reuters - US Online Video (Apr. 17, 2015) — A truck carrying honey bees overturns near Lynnwood, Washington, spreading boxes of live bees across the highway. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Our Love Of Puppy Dog Eyes Explained By Science

Our Love Of Puppy Dog Eyes Explained By Science

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2015) — Researchers found a spike in oxytocin occurs in both humans and dogs when they gaze into each other&apos;s eyes. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dog Flu Spreading in Midwestern States

Dog Flu Spreading in Midwestern States

AP (Apr. 17, 2015) — Dog flu is spreading in several Midwestern states. Dog daycare centers and veterinary offices are taking precautions. (April 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Rare Whale Spotted in Gulf of Mexico

Raw: Rare Whale Spotted in Gulf of Mexico

AP (Apr. 17, 2015) — Researchers from the E/V Nautilus had quite a surprise Tuesday, when a curious sperm whale swam around their remotely operated vehicle in the Gulf of Mexico. Cameras captured the encounter. (April 17) Video provided by AP
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

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

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