SCIENCE IN THE NEWS DAILY
Finches Learn Even When Practice Isn't Perfect
from Nature News
Birds can master new skills without the gradual improvements that normally occur with training. The improvement is all down to an ancient part of the brain that is present in all vertebrate species. Learning complex motor skills such as speech or dance movements involves imitation and trial and error. Young songbirds, for example, learn to sing by copying an adult tutor, and practising the song thousands of times until they have perfected every syllable.
The underlying brain mechanisms are unknown, but one influential model states that structures called the basal ganglia generate a variety of movement patterns that are tried out by the motor cortex, which executes the movements. The basal ganglia then reinforce the best pattern by transmitting a rewarding dopamine signal after receiving feedback on the result of the movement from the motor cortex.
But research published today [May 20] in Nature challenges this view. Jonathan Charlesworth, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco, and his colleagues trained Bengalese finches (Lonchura striata domestica) to modify the pitch of one song syllable in response to white noise.
Connect With Us:
PODCAST & VIDEO: Engineering Around Extreme Events
Extreme events, such as super floods and hurricanes, are becoming more common, so civil engineers are trying to adapt civil infrastructure such as bridges to these unpredictable and sometimes devastating meteorological events. Engineer Ana Barros discusses how engineering can prepare us for extreme weather events, but also how changing climate and population conditions can affect the ability of infrastructure to hold up over time.
To view all multimedia content, click "Latest Multimedia."
Receive notification when new content is posted from the entire website, or choose from the customized feeds available.