Media Mediums Seminar : Nicolas Giret
Seminar Haunted by Algorithms, Conversations: animal and non-human communication
What we learn from singing birds
Thursday 17 November
3:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Galerie Ygrec, Les Grands Voisins
82, avenue Denfert-Rochereau
Metro: Denfert-Rochereau (lines 4 & 6, RER B)
Almost half of the bird species on Earth are songbirds. The diversity of songbird species implies a huge diversity of songs. The tit warbles, the sparrow chirps, the blackbird whistles. Common to gardens as well as rainforests, songbirds fill up the soundscape and have intrigued humans over the ages. Only since the mid-twentieth century, and its technical advances, have songbirds and their singing behavior been investigated. The songs of songbirds are socially learned by imitation. An individual, usually a juvenile, memorizes the song of a model, generally of an adult, before practicing its own song.
Learning by songbirds is thus similar to speech and language acquisition in humans. It is a rarity within the animal kingdom, explaining why songbirds are now widely studied. The domains in which research is conducted on songbirds includes not merely thier behavioral aspects (such as function and use of songs, recognition amongst individuals) but also neurobiological aspects (what neuronal mechanisms are involved in song learning, its perception or its production?). During my presentation, we will discover various research projects and specific examples, with the aim of better understanding what and how information is exchanged not only between individuals while they are singing but also between neurons which ground the singing behavior.
Nicolas Giret is a researcher at the CNRS, based at the Neuroscience Paris Saclay Institute in Orsay. He first studied the cognitive abilities of parrots in the Laboratoire d’Ethologie et Cognition Comparées at the Paris Ouest University, mainly focusing on their vocal communication systems (2005-2009). He then moved to Zürich, to study systemic neuroscience at the Institute of Neuroinformatics, investigating the neuronal correlates of imitative vocal behavior (2010-2013).
Studying songbirds, he demonstrated the existence of a population of neurons displaying mirror-like neuronal activity in a cortical-like brain area, i.e. similar patterns of activity when a bird sings or passively hears its own song (2014). Recently, together with his new collaborators at the Neuroscience Paris Saclay Institute, he has shown that the neuronal responses in auditory areas of songbirds are modulated by the presence and the sex of the surrounding individuals (2015-2016). Nicolas Giret is currently working on the mechanisms involved in the emergence of cerebral mirror neurons in songbirds.