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Scientists Get Birds Drunk To Prove They Slur Their ‘Words’ Like Humans

Simon JohnsonSimon Johnson

Simon Johnson

Slurred speech is one of the most prevalent side effects of excessive intoxication.

Why this happens isn’t very clear, however, largely because the animals usually used for alcohol experiments are void of speech.

Birds, on the other hand, learn to sing in a manner very similar to the way humans learn to talk.

A recent study, according to the Washington Post, additionally found birds utilize the same genes whether they are singing or speaking.

Researchers from Oregon Health and Science University put the similarity between human and bird speech to the test by getting zebra finches drunk to see if their songs began to resemble a Friday night karaoke session.

The birds were given enough spiked juice to make them significantly sloppy. Researcher Christopher Olson told NPR,

At first we were thinking that they wouldn’t drink on their own because, you know, a lot of animals just won’t touch the stuff. But they seem to tolerate it pretty well and be somewhat willing to consume it.

Once the birds had blood alcohol levels near .08 percent, an enormous amount for such a tiny animal, their songs indeed became slurred.

The researchers wrote in the study,

The most pronounced effects were decreased amplitude and increased entropy.

This means the songs lessened in volume but jumped all over the place, deviating from the original form.

Yet only some of their syllables experienced significant alterations.

The team took this to suggest alcohol has a different effect on certain areas of the birds’ neurological networks since their array of sounds come from several parts of the brain.

This inference will be tested in follow-up studies in addition to whether alcohol impairs a birds’ ability to learn new songs.

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