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Well, birds are very ‘human’ in their music

Ever thought about the musical aspect in birds or how this sense develops in them when we hear a bird singing?
This is attributed to the complex neural network in the brain and formation of neurons during breeding season. Surprisingly, bird songs follow a rhythmic pattern and pitches that are in tune almost with the human music. Noted neurobiologist Professor Monika Sadanand of University of Bangalore has researched on this singing aspect among avian species for the past few years.
Talking to TNS here today at Gurukul Kangri University on the sidelines of an avian biology workshop, Monika Sadanand said that there are various similarities among the brain structure of avian and other mammals.
Citing usage of various technicalities involved in neurobiology research ,such as systematic tract tracing and lesions,Monika pointed that the basic parts of the brain are found in all forms of fish, reptiles ,mammals and birds.
“In birds there is an area known as high vocal centre (HVC), which is responsible for song development and delivery during breeding season. Some birds deliver songs, such as Oriental Magpie Robin, Pied Bush Chat and India Robin. Many other birds either do not possess this capacity to increase their HVC or they totally do not have it (HVC),” said Prof Monika. Elaborating, she said it is quite interesting to note that only in song birds it is possible to form new neurons during every breeding season to churn a new song.
Research is still going on to assess how neurons are formed in these birds. She also pointed that long after certain birds like blackbirds and willow warblers secured a mate and firmly established a territory, the males continue to develop their songs musically. “Just as our ancestors laboured over their musical instruments, animals work at their own musical creations. Bird songs follow rhythmic patterns and pitches that are in tune with human music,” she said.
Citing the brain cells in human beings Prof Monika pointed that in human beings once these cells get damaged they are quite impossible to repair, as a result of which the person remains unconscious for days or even years. But it is not so in birds. Medical scientists are still researching to know the exact reason behind formation of new neurons in birds, so that the outcome of this research can be utilised for recovery of damaged cells in human beings. Neurobiologist Prof Hans Joachim Bischof from Germany said that concept of avian neuroethology is being researched.

Sandeep Rawat
Tribune News Service
Haridwar, March 12, www.tribuneindia.com, www.msidallas.com