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.

Monday, 23 September 2019

Genetically tailored instruction improves songbird learning

SEPTEMBER 18, 2019

Some recent research suggests that educational achievement can be predicted based on differences in our genes. But does this really mean that genes set limits on an individual's academic potential? Or do these findings just reflect how standardized educational systems reward certain inborn learning styles and aptitudes at the expense of others?

A new UC San Francisco study conducted in songbirds supports the second interpretation, showing that what at first appear to be genetic constraints on birds' song learning abilities could be largely eliminated by tailoring instruction to better match the birds' inborn predispositions.

Education researchers have long advocated for tailoring classroom instruction to the specific learning styles of different students. However, carefully controlled studies showing the benefits of this approach have been inconclusive.

"Untangling the influences of genes and experience on educational achievement in humans is extremely challenging," said Michael Brainard, Ph.D., a professor of physiology and psychiatry and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator in the UCSF Center for Integrative Neuroscience. "The advantage of studying this kind of learning in songbirds is that in our experiments we can carefully control both the genetic background of individual birds and the instruction that they receive."

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