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, 11 October 2018

Songbird data yields new theory for learning sensorimotor skills



Mathematical models describes distribution of sensory errors
Date:  October 1, 2018
Source:  Emory Health Sciences
Songbirds learn to sing in a way similar to how humans learn to speak -- by listening to their fathers and trying to duplicate the sounds. The bird's brain sends commands to the vocal muscles to sing what it hears, and then the brain keeps trying to adjust the command until the sound echoes the one made by the parent.
During such trial-and-error processes of sensorimotor learning, a bird remembers not just the best possible command, but a whole suite of possibilities, suggests a study by scientists at Emory University. The Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences (PNAS) published the study results, which include a new mathematical model for the distribution of sensory errors in learning.
"Our findings suggest that an animal knows that even the perfect neural command is not going to result in the right outcome every time," says Ilya Nemenman, an Emory professor of biophysics and senior author of the paper. "Animals, including humans, want to explore and keep track of a range of possibilities when learning something in order to compensate for variabilities."

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