Baby Birds' Babbling Suggests Intricate Brain

How our feathered friends learn, play back song may hold answers for human speech
By Kate Rockwood,  Newser Staff
Posted May 5, 2008 4:54 PM CDT
A study of baby finches suggests their brain may use two overlapping neuronal pathways to acquire and use songs.   (Earth Life Forms - Animals)
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(Newser) – Being bird-brained might not be much of an insult: New MIT research paints a more intricate portrait of how songbirds learn to sing, with one part of the brain used for learning and another for singing itself. Rather than maturing from babbling to birdsong, the independent but overlapping pathways work together during different life stages.

"This is arguably one of the few if not the best models for developmental sensory learning and it's definitely the only model for developmental vocal learning,” one neuroscientist told the Boston Globe. It’s also intriguing, say scientists, because this might shed additional light on human speech acquisition, and because the learning circuit in songbirds is similar to pathways for mammal development.