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Let Sleeping Birds Sing

moons
Image: DANIEL MARGOLIASH/University of Chicago
Sometimes the best way to deal with a problem is to sleep on it. That approach appears to be employed not only by people but by songbirds as well. Indeed, according to a report published Friday in the journal Science, zebra finches may very well rely on sleep in order to rehearse their songs.

Amish S. Dave and Daniel Margoliash of the University of Chicago set out to investigate the relationship between motor activity and auditory feedback in songbirds by studying neurons in the zebra finch forebrain during the daytime, while the birds sang. They then observed those same neurons while the creatures were asleep and being exposed to recordings of their songs. They found a strikingly similar pattern. The researchers say this similarity suggests that the birds will file away a song that they¿ve heard and practice it "off-line" while snoozing.

"Our observation of neuronal replay of sensorimeter patterns during sleep studies," they write in their report, "is consistent with data from hippocampal studies suggesting that sleep is important for the consolidation of neuronal temporal codes for spatial memory."

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