As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Bird song clue to human brain functions?

DURHAM, N.C., Sept. 18 (UPI) -- How birds learn songs and which brain circuits are used may have implications for diagnosing and treating human developmental disorders, U.S. scientists report.

Researchers at Duke University say they found the same circuitry in a bird's brain involved in vocal control also participates in auditory learning, raising the possibility vocal circuits in the human brain also help encode auditory experience important to speech and language learning.

"Birds learn their songs early in life by listening to and memorizing the song of their parent or other adult bird tutor, in a process similar to how humans learn to speak," Duke postdoctoral researcher Todd Roberts said. "They shape their vocalizations to match or copy the tutor's song."

A young male zebra finch, Roberts said, learns his song in two phases -- memorization and practice. Memorization can be quick but the bird may need to practice singing as many as 100,000 times in a 45-day period to accurately imitate the tutor's song.

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