Birds get emotional, too

That's my jam! Photo: Derek Law/Flickr

That’s my jam! Photo: Derek Law/Flickr

There are people who cry at the opera. Maybe you get a touch of euphoria when you hear Elton John on the radio. Or perhaps you sob hysterically every time Patsy Cline starts warbling (hey, I don’t know your life).

Birds may not have such specific emotional reactions to music, but new research shows that they do have similar responses as humans. Neuroscientists at Emory University recorded the brain activity of both male and female sparrows when listening to a male birdsong during breeding season. When females heard a male’s mating song, the same neural reward system was activated in their brains as humans when we listen to music we like. Conversely, when another male heard the mating song, his brain lit up in patterns similar to people hearing a cacophony of sound.

Researchers aren’t sure how the birds would react to birdsong during other times of the year when they’re not mating, but the findings could point to human-made music having roots in evolution. I don’t know where Rebecca Black comes into this, but I’m willing to bet natural selection was not at work when “Friday” hit the airwaves.


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