Researchers discover mice have complex singing skills

A recent study shows that mice have pretty sophisticated singing skills, including the ability to change tunes. While scientists have known that dolphins and various birds possess the same ability as humans to learn and change tunes. Previously, the vocal abilities in mice was believed to be innate.

Scientists believe that mice possess a rudimentary motor control center in their brain, which works in conjunction with the vocal cords to provide voluntary control over pitch and tune. Assuming this hypothesis is correct, the information could lead to more effective studies of speak disorders found in humans. Perhaps most surprising, this connection between the brain and vocal cords is not present in chimps and monkeys.

Mice have the ability to sing in different pitches. As with humans, some mice are tenors, while some have deeper basses. Using this knowledge, scientists placed mice in a cage with other mice who exhibit different pitch. After several weeks, the pitch of the mice had changed to better match the pitch of the other mice in the cage. For example, the tenors developed a deeper sound, while some of the bases had a slightly higher pitch.

Not all scientists agree with the results of the study, however. Some researchers claim that rather than learning new tunes, the observed effects were the result of pitch convergences. In order to gain a better understanding of what this study has shown, plans are under way to examine the brain connections in the mice, as well as the genes and what effects they may have on the vocalization.

Post picture from Ratatouille

[via Livescience]