SCS Groups and Projects
Bird Garden Project
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Significance

For decades, zebra finches, a kind of songbird, have been considered as the model organisms of choice for studying complex vocal behaviors. The song birds' song learning and memory shares similarities with language learning in humans. Surprisingly humans and songbirds share common similarities in song systems in their brain. This is wonderful since they proceed with different evolutionary pathways. This similarity helps to understand human vocal system, memory and sensor integration by studying song birds. Furthermore, studying and identification of brain nuclei involved in vocal-motor activities in the birds provide insights for neuroscience of speech disorders and even language.
In addition, studying visual Wulst of birds is another interesting research area which enables researchers to understand control mechanisms involved in bird flights. Visual attention of the birds during their flights, optical flow, perceived by the birds and mechanisms involved for revisiting locations makes us postulate hypotheses about three dimensional embedding and environment mapping of the birds.

Milestones

The enclosed and roofed patio garden is prepared as a natural living place for the targeted small birds such as zebra finches, lovebirds and cockatiels. The roof is made by metallic mesh allowing natural sunlight and air exchange from the outside. Moreover, it is equipped with air conditioning inlets and exhaust fans as well as tem- perature and moisture sensors for temperature and humidity regulation, when it is needed.

For the behavioral studies, the garden will be equipped, with array of synchronized visible and thermal cameras as well as synchronized ad-hoc microphone arrays for continuous three dimensional bird tracking, as well as recording of their activities and vocal communications.

Further neuro-scientific studies, planned to be carried using miniaturized wireless neural recorders which provide multi-channel neuronal activity recording synchronized with birds' behavior. The resulting experimental data will be made available to the neuroscience community for further analysis in collaboration with SCS cognitive cluster.

Goals

Monitoring daily birds' activities for fine-grained classifica tion of their behavior provides a rich data-set for behavioral avian studies. Binding this data to vocal signals of the birds as well as their neural recordings arm scientists with multi-modal data streams in the studies.

Moreover, the project itself provides an opportunity for interdisciplinary activities from variety of fields such as neuroscience, micro-electronics, nano-technology, artificial intelligence and robotics to solve technological challenges dealing with payload limits and energy requirements.

Finally, making the recorded data available for researchers as freely available data-sets and possible online live garden streaming data facilitates international cooperation with experienced laboratories.

About

The bird garden project aims to study small bird behavior and neural function in a habitat that facilitates natural behaviors such as free flight food seeking and breeding as well as uninterrupted social interaction. The garden will be equipped with real time monitoring and feedback system for avian behavioral and neural monitoring and manipulation. This is part of our strategic plan to extends the diversity of our animal models to facilitate comparative and evolutionary neuroscience research and to open research opportunities in studying vocal behaviors and language understanding as well as flight mechanisms and three dimensional navigation. The current focus of the project will be on small birds such as zebra finches.

Our Team

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Mahdi Khademian, PhD

Project Manager

khademian [at] ipm [dot] ir

Seyed Amirreza Kazemi

Project Member

amirrezakazemi [at] ipm [dot]ir