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, 9 March 2020

What birdsong tells us about brain cells and learning

Date: February 19, 2020
Source: University of Chicago

Most scientists who study the brain believe that memories are stored through networks of synapses, or connections that form between neurons. Learning takes place as neurons form new connections and strengthen or weaken existing ones, giving the brain its so-called synaptic plasticity. There is growing evidence, however, that the intrinsic, built-in properties of the cells themselves, not just the connections between them, also play a role in this process.

New research by neuroscientists at the University of Chicago uses a unique model -- the intricate mating songs of birds -- to show how these intrinsic properties are closely tied to the complex processes of learning. The study, published in Nature Communications, could add a new layer of complexity to our understanding of the brain.

"We are able to go directly from the properties of the cells to the behavior of the animal," said Dan Margoliash, PhD, a neurobiologist and senior author of the new study. "This suggests that it's not just rapid changes at synapses that are driving learning and memory, but changes in the intrinsic properties of cells as well."

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