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Computer technology boosts study of songbirds in neuroscience

 

Narrator:          This is Science Today. The study of songbirds in neuroscience is unique because like humans, they learn a very complex vocalization. Of course, in humans this is speech and in songbirds, it's song.

Charlesworth:  They aren't born with the capability to do this. They actually take the first three months or so of their life, which corresponds to their childhood and adolescent period, copying a nearby bird, a tutor bird.

Narrator:          Jonathan Charlesworth, a Ph.D. candidate in neuroscience at the University of California, San Francisco, explains that researchers have been studying songbirds for over half a century.

Charlesworth:  And initially, the study was kind of in broad strokes, just understanding what they needed in their environment in order to learn. But recently, with the development of computer technology, we've been able to look at the really fine details of their song and understand what aspects of their nervous system and what computations their nervous system does that enables them to learn their song in such a precise and repeatable manner.

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