A study published in the journal Science found that as young zebra finches learn courtship songs, they experience precise changes in brain circuitry.
“We believe our study is the first to detail changes in nerve networks that make this mastery possible in maturing brains,” says senior study investigator Michael Long, PhD, an assistant professor of neuroscience at NYU Langone.
“Our results show that finch song learning reflects a ‘dance’ inside the brain’s vocal control center between nerve cells that capture information as the bird listens and those that direct muscle movement as it sings,” Dr. Long tells The New York Times.
The research team found that early in adolescence, just listening to a father’s song turns on the same brain cell networks that the young bird will use later to sing the song once learned. They also found that a set of nerve cells in the brain called inhibitory interneurons suppress the impact of each note in a father’s song as soon as it is learned, “locking” it into the younger bird’s memory piece by piece.
The study may have some impact down the line on humans. Says Dr. Long, “…maybe we could even do this in mammals, maybe even humans, and enrich learning.”
Read more from The New York Times.