Feeds

Serenading mice can sing along if you hum a few bars

Disney didn't lie after all

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Neuroboffins are claiming that mice can not only sing, serenading at ultrasonic melodies high above soprano, but they can also change their tune.

Remy from Ratatouille

The study has found certain brain features, associated with human and song-learning birds' brains, that show they may be able to learn new songs from each other.

Scientists have been assuming for the last 60 years that mice don't have any vocal learning traits at all, but Duke uni neurobiologist Erich Jarvis, who ran the study, disagrees.

The boffins put two male mice in a cage with one female to serenade. They tested more than 14 mice and repeated the experiment twice to be sure, but found that the two murines' song converged after seven to eight weeks.

However, the mice may only be singing at the same pitch, a convergence that has been seen in non-vocal learners. It implies that the mice don't actually "learn" to sing at the same pitch.

To learn instead of converge, there are five features associated with brain structure and behaviour that boffins look for. The study used gene expression markers to light up neurones in the motor cortex of the mixes' brains as they sang. It also used an injectable tracer, which mapped the signals from the neurones to the larynx.

The boffins knocked out the song-specific neurones in mice as well by damaging them. Mice with the damaged neurones or deaf mice couldn't keep their songs on pitch or repeat them as consistently.

"Our results show that mice have the five features scientists associate with vocal learning. In mice, they don't exist at the advanced levels found in humans and song-learning birds, but they also are not completely absent as commonly assumed," Jarvis said.

To back up their findings, the researchers are now searching for genes specific to the brain circuits for vocal behaviour, which have so far only been found in songbirds and humans.

The study was published in PLOS One. ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
Cutting cancer rates: Data, models and a happy ending?
How surgery might be making cancer prognoses worse
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Brit balloon bod Bodnar overflies North Pole
B-64 amateur ultralight payload approaching second circumnavigation
Galileo, Galileo! Galileo, Galileo! Galileo fit to go. Magnifico
I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me. But at least I can find my way with ESA GPS by 2017
Astronomers scramble for obs on new comet
Amateur gets fifth confirmed discovery
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?