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Finch Genes

May 6, 2010

The zebra finch genome could provide insight into vocal learning in humans.


The song of the finch…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.
(Zebra finch sounds)
Male zebra finches learn to sing a unique song from their dads, listening and learning to imitate the pattern of chirps. Now, an international team of researchers has sequenced the genes of the zebra finch. It’s the first songbird genome to be completed. Wes Warren is assistant director of the Genome Center at the Washington University School of Medicine.

WES WARREN (Washington University):
So what we’ve shown is that there’s hundreds of thousands of genes that during the act of singing as well as listening and learning the song that are being regulated in a specific area of the brain.

Warren says studying the zebra finch genome could give clues into how humans learn language. It could also provide insight into speech disorders such as in autism or stuttering. The team’s study appears in the journal Nature. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the science society.