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.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Dopamine key to vocal learning, songbird study finds

Experiments are the first to isolate the role of dopamine in sensory-motor learning

Date: March 15, 2016
Source: Emory Health Sciences

New research found that a reduction in dopamine levels in a small region of the basal ganglia in the finches' brains caused a reduction in their ability to correct vocal errors, while having no detectable effect on their ability to sing.

The neurotransmitter dopamine is essential to correcting vocal mistakes, suggests a study on Bengalese finches. The Journal of Neuroscience published the research, led by Emory biologist Samuel Sober, who uses Bengalese finches as a model to understand how the brain learns.

"Our experiments are the first to isolate the role of dopamine in sensory-motor learning, as distinct from the other functions that dopamine performs in the brain," Sober says. "Bengalese finches are songbirds that have extremely precise singing behavior and can also refine their songs in response to auditory feedback. This provides a way for us to understand similar patterns of learning in humans. The ability to use auditory feedback to fix errors in behavior underlies everything from learning to speak, to sing and to play an instrument."

The research found that a reduction in dopamine levels in a small region of the basal ganglia in the finches' brains caused a reduction in their ability to correct vocal errors, while having no detectable effect on their ability to sing. The basal ganglia is situated at the base of the forebrain and is associated with a variety of functions, including voluntary motor movements and procedural learning.





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