The researchers predicted that the bird would sing from electrical signals in its brain.
The new development is a step towards the creation of voice prostheses for people who have lost the ability to speak.
The authors of the new work investigated how brain activity in zebra finches affects what it is about to sing next. Bird songs and human speech are similar. This is both complex and learned behavior, so having studied one, you can draw conclusions about the other.
The scientists implanted silicon electrodes in the brains of male zebra glints and recorded the birds’ neural activity while singing. Next, they studied a set of electrical signals called local field signals. They were recorded in the part of the brain that works to create the song.
The researchers found that the various features of the local field signals can be read like the syllables in a song, and also understand when the bird will sing that particular syllable. Local field potentials are also used to predict what a person will sing or say. These signals have previously been studied only in the human brain, but not in the brain of songbirds.
The authors of the new work were able to find patterns in the song of birds and predict it. They note that their research will help design a prosthesis for predicting human speech.