How Birds Learn Songs Likened To Way Humans Learn Speech
Learning how baby sparrows learn to sing their songs could provide clues to how humans learn to speak languages. University of Utah biologist Gary J. Rose and his colleagues have taught baby sparrows to sing a complete song, even though the birds were exposed only to overlapping segments of the tune rather than the full melody. Their study, published in Wednesday's issue of the journal Nature, provides clues about how musical memories are stored in the brain and how those memories help birds learn to sing. Rose is the principal author of the study. "There are strong parallels between song learning in birds and speech learning in humans," Rose said. "Like humans, songbirds learn particular regional dialects, so they represent excellent opportunities to study the physiological basis of language. If we can understand something about how song is represented in their brains, then maybe we can better understand how speech learning occurs in humans and, when it goes awry, how we might go about fixing it." Co-author Stephanie Plamondon, a doctoral student in neuroscience, said the scientists gave the birds just pieces of the song and they were able to assemble a complete song.
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