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.
Highlighting some other aspects of bird studies, studying visual Wulst of birds is another interesting research area which enables researchers to understand control mechanisms involved in bird flights. Gaze and visual attention of the birds during 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.
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. Current focus of the project will be on small birds such as zebra finches and budgerigars.
An enclosed and roofed patio garden is prepared as a natural living place for the research targeted small birds: zebra finches,
lovebirds and budgerigars. The roof is made of 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 temperature and moisture sensors for
temperature and humidity regulation, when it is needed. Thanks to our aviary old pine, birds resort to this pine as their
natural shelter, especially facing bright sunlight during summer days.
Zebra finches are great tiny songbirds. They are boisterous which makes our aviary noisy. Zebra finches are opportunistic breeders; in less than two years our flock of zebra finches reaches more than one hundred birds from only four pairs. They are so curious which motivates them to look and get acquainted with new objects in the aviary. They are subjects for behavioral and neuroscientific studies in our lab.
They are lovely birds, especially when they laterally look at us. Compared to our finches they are so cautious and spend most of their time together on the top of our pine. These birds are planned for behavioral studies in our lab.
Colorful birds. Newcomers to our garden. These birds are planned for behavioral and neuroscientific studies.
For behavioral studies, the garden will be equipped with an array of synchronized visible and thermal cameras with 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 out 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. Monitoring daily birds' activities for fine-grained classification 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.
Sharif EE & IPM SCS