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Old Jan 9, 2003, 11:29 AM   #1
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Virtual Bird Brain Helps Decode Melodic Songs

LONDON (Reuters) - A virtual brain attached to a computer model of a singing bird is improving scientific understanding of how the creatures compose their melodies.
Researchers had already developed a model which mimicked the physical process a canary uses to sing but it did not always produce authentic sounds and left scientists puzzled by how birds control their voices.
But Rodrigo Laje and Gabriel Mindlin of the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina devised a computer model of a region of the brain called the RA nucleus which controls muscles in the lungs and vocal folds.
"The model brain can accurately echo the song of a South American sparrow," according to New Scientist magazine.
Mindlin told the weekly science magazine he was surprised how simple instructions from the brain change a constant signal into a complex series of bursts to produce the intricacies of birdsong.
He plans to add more brain power to his model which might reveal how birds improve their songs and learn them from other birds.
"He hopes it might one day be possible to use similar models to map the neural (brain) circuitry of animals without distressing lab experiments -- just by recording their calls and movements in the wild," the magazine added.
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