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. ®

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

More from The Register

next story
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray
Want to arm that shark? Better get in there quick
The next big thing in medical science: POO TRANSPLANTS
Your brother's gonna die, kid, unless we can give him your, well ...
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
Simon's says quantum computing will work
Boffins blast algorithm with half a dozen qubits
LIFE, JIM? Comet probot lander found 'ORGANICS' on far-off iceball
That's it for God, then – if Comet 67P has got complex molecules
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
5 critical considerations for enterprise cloud backup
Key considerations when evaluating cloud backup solutions to ensure adequate protection security and availability of enterprise data.
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?
How to simplify SSL certificate management
Simple steps to take control of SSL certificates across the enterprise, and recommendations centralizing certificate management throughout their lifecycle.