Songbirds offer insight into human speech production

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Washington, March 19 (ANI): Scientists say they're using songbirds to gain insight into how the human brain functions, which may lead to a better understanding of complex vocal behaviour, human speech production and ultimately, speech disorders and related diseases.

Pennsylvania State University Assistant Professors Dezhe Jin and Alexay Kozhevnikov said they are studying how songbirds transmit impulses through nerve cells in their brains to produce a complex behaviour, such as singing.

Songbirds, Jin said, are particularly well suited for studying speech production and syntax because there are more similarities between birdsong and human speech than one might think.

"We are not only interested in birds. We are ultimately interested in studying how the human brain works and better understanding ourselves," Jin said.

He said songbirds are among the few that learn to communicate sounds in a manner similar to humans, with both the speech- and song-learning processes involving similar neural mechanisms.

Kozhevnikov and Jin said they record brain activity that occurs in songbirds during singing. In this way, the songbird's brain acts as a laboratory for understanding neural networking.

The physicists said similarities between the neural networks in songbirds and humans makes them important for understanding the brain circuitry that underlies speech and language production.

The knowledge obtained from their research, they said, can function as a bridge to address and treat speech and language disorders.

The new research has been presented in Portland, Ore., during the March meeting of the American Physical Society. (ANI)

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