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A zebra finch

A zebra finch

A zebra finch.

In a National Science Foundation (NSF)-supported study at Lucent Technology's Bell Laboratories, researchers discovered that signals serving as "mental pointers" are produced in the brains of zebra finches while they sing, and also while they dream about, or "rehearse," their song during sleep. This long-term, fundamental, neural research is helping scientists understand brain mechanisms and, specifically, how the brain produces signals for motor control and learning. By studying how songbirds learn their songs, scientists hope to understand how humans learn to speak. The finch's brain circuits are similar to the parts of the human brain that handle motor control and learning despite the obvious size difference.

To read more about this research, see NSF Press Release PR 02-070, Songbirds Use Mental Pointer When Playing Tunes. (Year of image: 2001)

Credit: ©Diane McKenzie

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