A new study recently revealed duetting songbirds are strongly in sync that they appear "telepathic" because of their ability to mute their mate's music mind while singing.

Mail Online reported, examining activity of singing male and female plain-tailed wrens enabled the New Jersey Institute of Technology researchers to find out how these duetting birds are cooperating with each other.

The so-called "magic" in the plain-tail wrens' shared performance, described as the natural world's "jazz singers," sparks when the brain's music-making parts become muted.

Native to Ecuador, the birds are synchronizing their frantically paced duets, by deterring their partner's brain's song-making regions as they exchange phrases.

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Science Times - Duetting Songbird Mute Their Partner’s Musical Mind So They Can Stay in Sync, Research Reveals
(Photo : Browerk - Own work on Wikimedia Commons)
Plain-tailed wren

Lessons to Humans

These songbirds may offer lessons to humans on how to more effectively conduct online video conferences, by learning when to keep silent, explained the researchers.

In addition, the study authors said, the auditory feedback exchanged between wrens while they were duetting a la opera singers, temporarily hinders motor circuits used for singing in the listening mate, which help connect brains of the pair and coordinate turn-taking.

The results, a similar Distinct Today report specified, also provide fresh understanding into how humans, as well as other cooperative animals are using sensory cues to act in coordination with one another.

According to Dr. Eric Fortune, co-author of the study, the timing is everything and what these wrens, as described in the CCNAB site, have exhibited is that for any good cooperation, partners should become one.

Sensory Linkage

The duetting songbirds can do this through sensory linkages-listening, observing, creating

They can do this through sensory linkages - listening, watching - 'creating a single entity with our partners' by cooperating effectively, he explained.

Dr. Melissa Coleman, the study's corresponding author and biology Associate Professor at Scripps College said, the said songbirds are similar to jazz singers.

Coleman added, duetting wrens have a rough song structure planned prior to their singing, although as their song evolves, they need to coordinate rapidly by receiving constant input from their mate.

What they expected to find, she elaborated, was a highly active set of specialized neurons coordinating this turn-taking.

What they found though, is that hearing each other in fact, leads to inhibition of such neurons and that's the key regulating the incredible timing between the pair.

Birds' Recording

For the study published in the PNAS journal, the researchers needed to travel to remote bamboo forests on the active Antisana Volcano's slopes.

The research team, camped at the Yanayacu Biological Station's lab, made neurophysiological recordings of four pairs of native wrens while they were singing both solo and duet songs.

They then set off analyzing activity in a part of the brains of the birds where specialized neurons for learning and making music-making are active.

Based on the recordings, during the turn-taking, which frequently take the tightly knit call-and-answer phrase form, that together sound, as if one is hearing a single bird is singing, the neurons of the birds fired rapidly when they generated their own syllables.

However, as one wren starts hearing its partner's syllables sung during the duet, the neurons mute down substantially. The inhibition, Dr. Fortune said, is thought of as functioning like a trampoline.


When the songbirds hear their partner, the neurons are inhibited although similar to rounding off a trampoline, the release from such an inhibition leads them to rapidly respond when it is their turn to sing.

The researchers then played the duetting wrens' recordings while they were a sleep-like condition, anesthetized with a drug that impacts a major inhibitory neurotransmitter the brains of the wrens also present in humans, known as gamma-aminobutyric acid or GABA.

The said drug transformed the activity in the brain, from reticence to bursts of activity when the sad birds heard their own music.

Related information is shown on wwwAAASorg's YouTube video below:


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