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Birdsong Dreams

August 6, 2018

Researchers have discovered that when songbirds dream, the vocal muscles they use for singing become active.

Transcript

Celebrated songsters, zebra finches provide a window into the mechanics of song while dreaming. (Pixel2013/Pixabay)

Celebrated songsters, zebra finches provide a window into the mechanics of song production while dreaming. (Pixel2013/Pixabay)

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Birdsong dreams. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

(zebra finch song)

This is the song of a zebra finch when it’s awake. But researchers have discovered that while asleep, the birds activate the same vocal cord muscles they use for singing during the day. University of Buenos Aires physicist Gabriel Mindlin and his team played the birds their own songs while they slept, measuring how their  vocal cord muscles responded. Then they created simulated songs by piecing together the sounds that corresponded to those patterns.

(simulated zebra finch song)

GABRIEL MINDLIN (University of Buenos Aires):

You can translate those patterns of activity exactly into a song. Therefore with this biophysical window to the brain, you can actual listen to what the bird is dreaming.

HIRSHON:

The researchers write in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that dreaming might help the birds maintain their singing muscles or remember their songs. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Susanne Bard