Birds perceive songs differently to human listeners.

21/02/2013 - 15:45
  • Metamusic
breindl
Female birds like songs only during the mating season, male birds always dislike the songs of others.

Since the time of Darwin, biologists have wondered whether birdsong and music may serve similar purposes or have the same evolutionary precursors. (Male) Birds sing songs and they, too, tie them to feelings. This is no surprise. Neuro scientists of the Emory University now proved this by measuring the brain activity of white-throated sparrows, while exposing them to conspecific song.

In their article, published in Frontiers of Evolutionary Neuroscience, the scientists come to the conclusion: "We found that the responses, and how well they mirrored those of humans listening to music, depended on sex and endocrine state. In females with breeding-typical plasma levels of estradiol, all of the regions of the mesolimbic reward pathway that respond to music in humans responded to song. In males, we saw responses in the amygdala but not the nucleus accumbens – similar to the pattern reported in humans listening to unpleasant music. The shared responses in the evolutionarily ancient mesolimbic reward system suggest that birdsong and music engage the same neuroaffective mechanisms in the intended listeners."

[Find the abstract here: http://www.frontiersin.org/Evolutionary_Neuroscience/10.3389/fnevo.2012.00014/abstract]

This leads to the question: Are birds able to just enjoy music aesthetically, without any specific interest? The point is: If humans were similar to these sparrows, every male opera-goer would react with pure disgust on arias of tenors or bassos...

Thanks to Karin Mack for finding this article via Die Presse.

http://diepresse.com/home/science/1327783/Voegel-hoeren-Gesang-anders-als-Menschen (german only)