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Software program may one day be used for rehab


Narrator:            This is Science Today. An automated computer program may someday be used to help rehabilitate individuals who have lost certain motor skills due to disease or injury. Michael Brainard, a professor of physiology at the University of California, San Francisco, explains that his lab has been using a software program to provide positive and negative feedback to songbirds, which caused them to quickly change their very complex tunes.

Brainard:            In cases of rehabilitation or in the cases of behaviors like speech, we think that it may be particularly useful to adopt some of the sorts of techniques that we've developed here to monitor very precisely the behavior as someone is speaking and to provide very rapid feedback about their success or failure in producing appropriate sounds.

Narrator:            There's still more research to be done, but Brainard says their results are encouraging.

Brainard:            If the principles we've studied in the songbird apply to humans, learning might be greatly facilitated by taking advantage of this very narrow time window after we try out a vocal gesture to provide feedback about whether it's been successful or not.

Narrator:            For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.