Mice learn songs in similar way to humans
Researchers say that mice share some behavioral mechanisms involved in vocal learning with birds and humans. They learn songs based on the sounds they hear. AFP photoUS researchers say that mice may have the ability to learn songs based on the sounds they hear, BBC news has reported. They found that when male mice were housed together they learned to match the pitch of their songs to each other.
Mice also share some behavioral and brain mechanisms involved in vocal learning with songbirds and humans, say the researchers. But some scientists are sceptical, saying the evidence doesn’t support the claim.
Details of the study are published in the Journal, Plos One.
Previous research in this field has shown that male mice can sing complex songs when exposed to females and these play an important part in courtship.
These murine serenades are ultrasonic. At between 50 and 100KHz, they are far above the hearing range of humans. When processed to make them audible to humans, they sound like a series of plaintive whistles.
It has long been assumed that mice were incapable of modifying the sequence or the pitch of these sounds. This ability, called vocal learning, is rare in the natural world. It is restricted to some birds such as parrots and song birds along with whales, dolphins, sea lions, bats and elephants.
But in these experiments, researchers from Duke University in North Carolina say they found that mice have both the brain circuits and the behavioural attributes consistent with vocal learning.
Dr Erich Jarvis, who oversaw the study, told BBC News that it had changed his understanding of the way mice make sound.