Skip to Main Content

Scientists have long suspected songbirds might hold the secrets to better understanding how human learn to talk. Now several Florida-based researchers believe understanding how some birds sing could someday lead to answers about some human developmental learning disabilities.

A team of Florida State University scientists — led by psychologist Rick Hyson, statistician Wei Wu, biomathematician Richard Bertram, and neuroanatomist Frank Johnson — have received an $800,000 National Science Foundation grant to study the brains of male zebra finches and how they learn to sing.


Speaking by phone from his Tallahassee, Fla., office, Hyson told STAT the answer may have something to do with how electrical pulses pass through the songbird’s network of neurons in the brain — and how early-life experiences potentially change brain function. This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Unlock this article by subscribing to STAT+ and enjoy your first 30 days free!