Can birdsong help us with speech disorders?

Washington : According to a recent study, birdsong could offer clues to human speech disorders that accompany several common neurological disorders, including Parkinson’s disease.

Researcher Julie Miller from the University of Arizona said that songbirds have specific regions in their brains that allow them to learn and produce song, adding that researchers can study changes in those regions of their brain and link it to the song coming out of their beak.

Not only do birds have similar speech development to humans, but they also share some important genes in brain regions involved in producing speech. This suggests that if Miller can understand how changes in the songbird’s brain lead to changes in song, issues with human speech production should have similar causes.

“Finches are very much like us,” Miller said. “For instance, in zebra finches, the males learn to sing by listening to their father, then babbling like a baby, just like in humans.”

“Scientists still don’t have a good understanding of how changes in the brain can lead to speech problems,” Miller said. “In my lab, I want to know what’s happening in the brain circuits that’s leading to these issues.”

Although the lab is still in its early stages, Miller hopes it eventually will open the door to better treatment for the vocal and speech issues associated with Parkinson’s and related disorders. (ANI)