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The power of the songbird

Recent research shows that baby songbirds can cure a range of human disorders including autism.

Zebra finch chicks learn to sing in a very similar way as human babies learn to speak¬† by copying their elders.¬† Researchers have recently cracked the genetic code of the bird for the first time, identifying more than 800 genes linked to song learning. This means that the tiny bird could provide a valuable model for understanding human learning and memory. Male baby finches begin babbling like infants and then start to imitate their father’s song.

As they learn in this predictable pattern, finches could now provide a model for the origins of disorders such as autism, strokes, stuttering and Parkinsons.

Chris Ponting, a professor with the Medical Research Council Functional Genomics Unit at University of Oxford, who was involved in the research said that, Song learning is an excellent paradigm for all types of learning. There are experiments that can be done that immediately provide information as to what changes occur in neurons (brain cells) upon the learning of a song. The zebra finch genome provides a tool that allows this exploration.’

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