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Turns out humans aren’t the only ones who slur their speech when they’ve had one too many to drink. Birds do it, too. Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University have found that the zebra finch, a songbird that learns to sing in a manner similar to how humans learn speech, slurs its songs when drunk. In a study published this month in the journal PLOS ONE, the researchers described how a group of zebra finches who were given a mixture of grape juice and ethanol sang songs with “altered” acoustics.

“The most pronounced effects were decreased amplitude and increased entropy, the latter likely reflecting a disruption in the birds’ ability to maintain the spectral structure of song under alcohol,” the researchers wrote. “Furthermore, specific syllables, which have distinct acoustic structures, were differentially influenced by alcohol, likely reflecting a diversity in the neural mechanisms required for their production.” Given the parallels between birdsong and human speech, the zebra finch could be a powerful animal model for understanding how alcohol affects learned social behaviors in humans, the researchers said.



— James Eng