11 februari 2008

I am singing in the (b) rain...

Song birds communicate by singing and learn their songs through imitation. Since their discovery in the monkey brain, it has been suggested that mirror neurons mediate the mimicking of behaviour in primates and perhaps also underlie empathy and language acquisition in humans. Prather et al. now show that mirror-like neurons also exist in birds and are involved in song learning.
These findings show that there is a remarkable resemblance between HVCx 'auditory-motor' neurons in birds and 'visual-motor' mirror neurons in the frontoparietal cortex in monkeys, which respond when a monkey performs an action or sees that same action being performed. It has been suggested that in humans mirror neurons might have a role in language acquisition, and the findings of Prather et al. provide the first evidence that learned communication, at least in birds, might indeed involve the activation of mirror-like neurons. ORIGINAL RESEARCH PAPER Prather, J. F., Peters, S., Nowicki, S. & Mooney, R. Precise auditory–vocal mirroring in neurons for learned vocal communication. Nature 451, 305–310 (2008)

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