Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Bird brains follow the beat

Date:
February 24, 2012
Source:
RIKEN
Summary:
By training birds to ‘get rhythm’, scientists uncover evidence that our capacity to move in time with music may be connected with our ability to learn speech.

The budgerigar, Melopsittacus undulates, is one of several vocal-learning species of parrot, well known for its capacity to mimic human language.
Credit: Copyright : 2011 Yoshimasa Seki

By training birds to 'get rhythm', scientists uncover evidence that our capacity to move in time with music may be connected with our ability to learn speech.

Even though typical dance-floor activity might suggest otherwise, humans generally demonstrate a remarkable capacity to synchronize their body movements in response to auditory stimuli. But is this ability to move in time to musical rhythm a uniquely human trait?

Some animals are capable of vocal learning, changing the sounds they make in response to those they hear from other members of their species. Scientists have hypothesized that such behavior may be associated with the capacity for so-called 'rhythmic synchronization'. "Motor control of vocal organs is naturally important in vocal learning," says Yoshimasa Seki of the RIKEN Brain Science Institute in Wako. "Once auditory-motor coordination in the vocal control system has been established, a similar auditory-motor transformation system for other body parts might be derived from that."

Studies in vocal-learning species have largely focused on case studies of individual animals, but Seki and colleagues conducted larger-scale experiments and found that budgerigars (Fig. 1) may have an inherent capacity for rhythmic synchronization. The researchers tested their hypothesis by training eight budgerigars to peck a button in response to the rhythm of an external metronome, which could be adjusted to present the birds with audio-visual stimuli at varying intervals.

In all 46 experiments, the birds were able to consistently respond to rhythmic beats within a certain time-frame, demonstrating successful entrainment. However, the accuracy of their timing was dependent on the tempo. Only one out of seven birds was successfully able to match the onset of each beat when the stimuli were generated at 450 millisecond intervals, while all animals achieved this feat when that interval was lengthened to 1,500 or 1,800 milliseconds.

To confirm that actual synchronization was taking place, the researchers used computer simulations of other bird behavior scenarios, such as random pecking or responding directly to individual stimuli rather than the rhythm itself. However, none of these alternative models was sufficient to explain the observed activity. "Our results showed that budgerigars can show rhythmic movements synchronized with external stimuli, which means they potentially have this capability of auditory-motor entrainment as a species," says Seki.

As such, this species may offer a useful model for future investigations of the neurological mechanisms that potentially connect vocal learning with rhythmic synchronization in both birds and humans. "Such studies should contribute to discussions of specific characteristics of the human speech system and its similarity to the vocal learning systems found in other animal species," explains Seki.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Ai Hasegawa, Kazuo Okanoya, Toshikazu Hasegawa, Yoshimasa Seki. Rhythmic synchronization tapping to an audio–visual metronome in budgerigars. Scientific Reports, 2011; 1 DOI: 10.1038/srep00120

Cite This Page:

RIKEN. "Bird brains follow the beat." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 February 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120224152753.htm>.
RIKEN. (2012, February 24). Bird brains follow the beat. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120224152753.htm
RIKEN. "Bird brains follow the beat." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120224152753.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

'Cadaver Dog' Sniffs out Human Remains

'Cadaver Dog' Sniffs out Human Remains

AP (Oct. 21, 2014) — Where's a body buried? Buster's nose can often tell you. He's a cadaver dog, specially trained to find human remains and increasingly being used by law enforcement and accepted in courts. These dogs are helping solve even decades-old mysteries. (Oct. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) — Two white lion cubs, an extremely rare subspecies of the African lion, were recently born at Belgrade Zoo. They are being bottle fed by zoo keepers after they were rejected by their mother after birth. Duration: 00:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) — He is leading a one man agricultural revolution in Mali - Oumar Diatabe uses traditional farming methods to get the most out of his land and is teaching others across the country how to do the same. Duration: 01:44 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Goliath Spider Will Give You Nightmares

Goliath Spider Will Give You Nightmares

Buzz60 (Oct. 20, 2014) — An entomologist stumbled upon a South American Goliath Birdeater. With a name like that, you know it's a terrifying creepy crawler. Sean Dowling (@SeanDowlingTV) has the details. Video provided by Buzz60
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