13 June 2024
California Singing Fish's Midbrain Sheds Light

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The midbrain of the talkative midshipman fish, often referred to as the California singing fish, is pivotal in commencing and structuring the sequences of sounds for their vocal communication. This discovery could provide insights into the vocal expression mechanisms in mammals, with the California singing fish serving as an important biological model.

California Singing Fish: A Model for Vocal Expression in Mammals



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Published on: September 5, 2020 Description: A fish out of water sings in Malibu, California Original song by Ggreg Snyder.
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In a fascinating study published in Nature Communications, researchers from Cornell University have discovered that the midbrain of the talkative midshipman fish, also known as the “California singing fish,” plays a crucial role in controlling vocal expressions. This finding suggests that the midbrain in these fish could serve as a model for understanding how mammals, including humans, control their own vocalizations.

The Chorus of Midshipman Fish

Midshipman fish are known for their unique vocalizations, which take the form of grunts, growls, and hums. These sounds are used by the males to attract mates and ward off rivals. To our human ears, the hum of a male midshipman fish might sound like a single note on a French horn or a foghorn. Interestingly, these fish migrate from deep offshore areas to shallow intertidal zones during the spring and summer to spawn. They are dedicated fathers, guarding hundreds of unhatched eggs until they hatch into free-swimming fry.

Exploring the Midbrain’s Role

While scientists have long known that mammals and other vertebrates use vocalizations to communicate, the specific role of the midbrain in initiating and controlling these vocal expressions has remained largely unexplored. The research conducted by the Cornell team, led by Eric R. Schuppe, has shed light on this important aspect of communication.

The researchers found that specific neurons in the midbrain of midshipman fish, called periaqueductal gray neurons, are activated in distinct patterns during courtship calls, foraging, and nest guarding. These neurons not only control the production of sounds but also contribute to the patterning of different types of vocalizations. The communication signals patterned by the midbrain have frequency and amplitude components, and the fish string together sounds in different ways depending on the context.

Implications for Mammals, Including Humans

The shape of the human brain, with the midbrain sitting at the top of the brain’s “stem,” makes it challenging to study experimentally. On the other hand, fish brains, which are shaped more like a tube, provide a more accessible model for research. By studying the midbrain of midshipman fish, scientists can gain insights into how the midbrain functions in mammals, including humans.

This research has important implications for understanding the consequences of midbrain damage in humans. It may help us understand how a malfunctioning midbrain can impact a person’s ability to communicate effectively or even render them mute. The midbrain is a vital node in the brain, connecting various regions and acting as a gateway for executive functions to activate the muscles involved in producing vocalizations.

Conclusion

The midbrain of the California singing fish, the midshipman fish, has proven to be a valuable model for studying vocal expressions in mammals, including humans. This research highlights the importance of the midbrain in controlling vocalizations and provides insights into the potential consequences of midbrain damage. By studying these fish, scientists are unraveling the mysteries of communication and gaining a deeper understanding of the complexity of the human brain.

Read More: California singing fish’s midbrain may serve as a model for how mammals control vocal expressions

https://phys.org/news/2024-01-california-fish-midbrain-mammals-vocal.html

FAQ’s

1. What is the significance of the midbrain in controlling vocal expressions in mammals?

The midbrain plays a crucial role in controlling vocal expressions in mammals, including humans. Understanding the function of the midbrain can help us uncover how vocalizations are initiated and controlled.

2. How do midshipman fish use vocalizations?

Midshipman fish use vocalizations, such as grunts, growls, and hums, to attract mates and ward off rivals. These sounds are important for their reproductive success.

3. What are the specific neurons in the midbrain that control vocalizations in midshipman fish?

The specific neurons in the midbrain of midshipman fish are called periaqueductal gray neurons. These neurons are activated in distinct patterns during courtship calls, foraging, and nest guarding, and they contribute to the production and patterning of different types of vocalizations.

4. How can studying midshipman fish help us understand vocal expressions in humans?

Midshipman fish have a more accessible model for research due to the shape of their brain. By studying the midbrain of these fish, scientists can gain insights into how the midbrain functions in mammals, including humans. This research can help us understand the consequences of midbrain damage in humans and its impact on communication abilities.

5. What are the implications of this research for human communication?

This research can provide insights into how a malfunctioning midbrain can affect a person’s ability to communicate effectively or even render them mute. Understanding the role of the midbrain in vocal expressions can help in diagnosing and treating communication disorders related to midbrain damage.



Related Wikipedia Articles

Topics: California singing fish (midshipman fish), Vocal communication in mammals, Periaqueductal gray neurons

Porichthys notatus
Porichthys notatus is a species of batrachoid toadfish. It is a member of the midshipman genus, Porichthys, and is known by the common name plainfin midshipman. It is native to the eastern Pacific Ocean, where its distribution extends along the coast from Sitka, Alaska, to Magdalena Bay in southern Baja...
Read more: Porichthys notatus

Mammal
A mammal (from Latin mamma 'breast') is a vertebrate animal of the class Mammalia (). Mammals are characterized by the presence of milk-producing mammary glands for feeding their young, a neocortex region of the brain, fur or hair, and three middle ear bones. These characteristics distinguish them from reptiles and...
Read more: Mammal

Periaqueductal gray
The periaqueductal gray (PAG, also known as the central gray) is a brain region that plays a critical role in autonomic function, motivated behavior and behavioural responses to threatening stimuli. PAG is also the primary control center for descending pain modulation. It has enkephalin-producing cells that suppress pain. The periaqueductal...
Read more: Periaqueductal gray

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