Singing Mice Show Signs of Learning
Guys who imitate Luciano Pavarotti or Justin Bieber to get the girls aren’t alone. Male mice may do a similar trick, matching the pitch of other males’ ultrasonic serenades. The mice also have certain brain features, somewhat similar to humans and song-learning birds, which they may use to change their sounds, according to a new study. “We are claiming that mice have limited versions of the brain and behavior traits for vocal learning that are found in humans for learning speech and in birds for learning song,” said Duke neurobiologist Erich Jarvis, who oversaw the study.
The results appear in PLOS ONE and are further described in a review article in Brain and Language. The discovery contradicts scientists’ 60-year-old assumption that mice do not have vocal learning traits at all. “If we’re not wrong, these findings will be a big boost to scientists studying diseases like autism and anxiety disorders,” said Jarvis. “The researchers who use mouse models of the vocal communication effects of these diseases will finally know the brain system that controls the mice’s vocalizations.”