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Songs of Mice & Men

Mice could be part of a short list of creatures that sing in the presence of the opposite sex, including songbirds and humpback whales. This revelation comes form research by Timothy Holy and Zhongsheng Guo at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. The finding opens the possibility of using mice to study and develop treatments for autism and other communication disorders. Birds songs and how they are perceived and learned, are used to understand how the human brain works. But some questions might be posed better with mice, for experimental convenience.

Holy and Guo were studying the brain response in male mice to chemical signals emitted by female mice. The mice sounds were not audible without technical amplification. Initially, researchers recorded the sounds with a microphone, stored them in a computer and converted them to an image. Later, they developed a way to hear the sounds by recording them on tape and reconstructing them four octaves lower. The mice sounds met two key criteria for song distinct syllables and recurring themes. You can read their research at http://biology.plosjournals.org/perlserv/?request=get-document&doi=10.1371/journal.pbio.0030386

Posted Thursday, 3 November 2005

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