$2 million study finds drunken zebra finches slur their singing

by Vanessa Garcia Rodriguez, |

PORTLAND, Ore. (Christian Examiner) -- A study published in the scientific journal PLOS One showed drunken zebra finches experience the same kind of slurred communications as humans who drink too much, and it only involved $2,090,326 in federal grants.

Researchers at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland say the project's relevance lies in the ability to understand how alcohol affects the part of the brain responsible for speech.

"Given the important parallels between birdsong and human speech and language, the zebra finch is potentially a powerful animal model system for understanding how alcohol affects a set of learned social behaviors that are highly relevant to humans," the study authors write in their findings.

The "learned social behaviors" refer to the fact that zebra finches learns to sing the same way humans learn to talk. According to the scientific journal, birds given a mixture of white grape juice and ethanol slurred their song and were unable to sing as loudly or as clearly as their sober counter parts.

While the study seems outlandish, the Huffington Post reported the research could lead to new treatments for alcohol abuse and technology to identify when someone is drunk.

"Seeing how alcohol affects learned song can help us understand how alcohol affects learning and cognition and help develop treatments of such dysfunctions for humans," Andrey Ryabinin, a behavioral neuroscientist at the university, told the publication via email. "Second, there are efforts developing biomarkers of intoxication. Slurred speech could serve as such [a] biomarker, and understanding how alcohol affects mechanisms regulating speech would help us develop such biomarkers."

Findings also suggested that not all parts of the bird's songs were equally affected by the alcohol. As a result, further research could be conducted the Daily Herald reported.

According to National Institutes of Health records, the research was conducted under three project numbers that list 11 grant distributions given to three of the four authors in the study published in PLOS One