Reuters - Video

EDITION: U.S. | U.K. | IN

In Depth

More to zebra finch than meets the ear

Sunday, February 03, 2013 - 01:41

Feb. 3 - The common zebra finch may hold the key to improving the lives of people with speech impediments. Researchers in Denmark are looking closely at the birds' vocalisation anatomy and say there are links between the mechanics of birdsong and human speech that could be exploited for therapeutic purposes. Basmah Fahim has more.

▲ Hide Transcript

View Transcript

The zebra finch is a songbird found in warmer climates. It lives near the ground and feeds mainly on grass seeds... although, to scientists at the University of Southern Denmark the finch is most interesting for its ability to sing. To help unlock the secrets of the bird's song, the researchers have produced a high resolution 3d model of the finch's vocal organ, the syrinx. They can now see how the bird translates the impulse to communicate, into song. Led by Dr Coen Elemans, the team says the way the birds learn to sing, is similar to how humans learn to speak. (SOUNDBITE)(English) DR COEN ELEMANS, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN DENMARK, SAYING: "We are very interested in how these animals produce their sounds, because we are very interested in how these animals learn their sounds. Zebra finches sing, the males sing and many of the processes are involved in learning to sing are very similar to the processes involved for humans learning speech." While the neural triggers for birdsong have been studied in the past, the anatomy of the complex physical structures that generate sound are less understood. The images show the structure of the syrinx to be similar to that of the human vocal chord. They also illustrate how the vibrating membranes operate at an extremely high speed producing the trill. (SOUNDBITE)(English) DR COEN ELEMANS, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN DENMARK, SAYING: "These birds also babble when they are babies, they actually have these babbling like songs, and then it crystallizes slowly more into adult song. And that is exactly what we see in humans.'' Given the similarities, Elemens says the research could one day lead to treatments for humans with speech impediments. The team will be conducting new experiments with different species but believe the birds have much to tell.

Press CTRL+C (Windows), CMD+C (Mac), or long-press the URL below on your mobile device to copy the code

More to zebra finch than meets the ear

Sunday, February 03, 2013 - 01:41

Editors' Picks »

Moving Pictures »

Images of September Images of September

Thu, 02 Oct, 2014 - (1:00)

Still missing – MH370 Still missing – MH370

Fri, 05 Sep, 2014 - (2:05)

Burning Together Burning Together

Mon, 01 Sep, 2014 - (2:23)

Mending dolls, teddies and hearts Mending dolls, teddies and hearts

Fri, 22 Aug, 2014 - (3:12)

Images of August Images of August

Fri, 29 Aug, 2014 - (1:00)

"Old timers" sail the Chesapeake Bay "Old timers" sail the Chesapeake Bay

Mon, 11 Aug, 2014 - (2:27)

Burned memories Burned memories

Fri, 08 Aug, 2014 - (3:02)

Images of July Images of July

Fri, 01 Aug, 2014 - (1:20)

World Cup: passion on the pitch World Cup: passion on the pitch

Fri, 11 Jul, 2014 - (1:00)

Reuters Investigates »

Re-homing victim: "I could have been dead" Re-homing victim: "I could have been dead"

Wed, 19 Feb, 2014 - (8:24)

Cops and loggers in the Amazon rainforest Cops and loggers in the Amazon rainforest

Fri, 10 Jan, 2014 - (4:01)

"Passed around like a dog" "Passed around like a dog"

Thu, 29 Aug, 2013 - (6:32)

Adopted, then abandoned online Adopted, then abandoned online

Thu, 29 Aug, 2013 - (13:21)

How the DEA keeps its secrets secret How the DEA keeps its secrets secret

Mon, 05 Aug, 2013 - (1:36)

How education lost its role as the great equalizer - Reuters Investigates How education lost its role as the great...

Mon, 17 Dec, 2012 - (7:52)

Jihad Jane: From abused child to American jihadist - Reuters Investigates Jihad Jane: From abused child to American...

Sun, 09 Dec, 2012 - (10:01)

Jihad Jane: The order to kill - Reuters Investigates Jihad Jane: The order to kill - Reuters...

Mon, 10 Dec, 2012 - (10:39)