Study of songbirds provides insight on how we vocalize words

Tuesday, April 10, 2018 by

For years, we have gotten used to the idea that songbirds break into song just because. There’s no set pattern in those melodious notes that issue from their tiny beaks. Until a new study from the UT Southwestern’s Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute showed that a bird’s song can be changed to the syllable.

The study focused on the zebra finch’s ventral tegmental area (VTA), a part of the brain’s reward system that reinforces behavior. The researchers used scientific methods to control VTA neurons in zebra finches as they practiced their song. Researchers discovered that a bird’s song can be altered by activating and deactivating a neuronal pathway which made its brain decide if it vocalized correctly or not. This finding has a connection in previous research showing that neurons release dopamine, known as the happy hormone, when a song is performed without any mistakes.

Dr. Todd Roberts, Assistant Professor of Neuroscience and a Thomas O. Hicks Scholar in Medical Research, believes that they can expect a similar response in people learning to adjust their speech patterns.

You don’t have to be a songbird to catch people’s attention when you open your mouth to express yourself. Here are some ways you can get people’s attention when you speak.

  •  Practice clarity. Record your natural speaking voice and assess your tone, your pronunciation, the speed with which you talk. Listen well to see if you are understood. Talk as if you’re conversing with a friend and be as spontaneous as can be. Are you mumbling? Do you slur some words? Are you pronouncing the words right? Are you speaking in a boring monotone? Take down notes or ask a family member of friend to comment on your speech. Practice pronouncing the words well. Look out for pauses that may signal a lack of confidence. Get a magazine or book and practice pausing briefly when you see a comma or a period. Then record your voice again and see if your speech as improved.
  • Believe in yourself. Lack of self-confidence shows in the way we speak. Tense muscles and a quivering voice make it hard for people to believe in what we’re saying. Tell yourself you have what it takes to speak well and convince people. List down your assets, look yourself in the mirror and repeat them over and over every single day. Inhale and exhale deeply to get rid of tension and stay calm. This will make you feel at ease, especially in awkward situations, or when you feel nervous speaking before a crowd. (Related: Public Speaking Tips to Learn From Stand Up Comedians.)
  • Keep it simple. Avoid trying to impress with long, overly complex words, phrases, and sentences. Keep everything simple and easy to grasp. Don’t be afraid of making your voice a little louder to emphasize certain points. Screaming is a no-no, however. After all, you can speak with authority without raising your voice to the point where people will think you’re throwing your weight around needlessly.

The ability to speak clearly and well is a gift we can all develop. Good public speaking skills is the secret of great leaders, charismatic people and other successful persons. With some practice and a little help from friends who give us constructive feedback, we, too, can learn to connect with others through power of the spoken word. It will make us more confident, more successful and help gain us even more friends.

See more stories on interesting research at Research.news.

Sources include:

ScienceDaily.com

PenandthePad.com



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