As any karaoke regular could tell you, or Courtney Love for that matter, singing while drunk likely doesn’t yield the same accuracy as signing purely under the influence of soul. While humans may be the only creatures who recreationally get intoxicated, it doesn’t mean that other animals can’t get a little tipsy now and then and let out some strange noises.
Researchers from the Oregon Health and Science University published a study last week in PLOS ONE, in which they fed zebra finches an alcohol-spiked juice to hear what their birdsongs would sound like under the influence. This wasn’t simply an experiment to see how birds hold their liquor though. Researchers were slooking for more information on human speech.
Birds learn how to sing very similarly to how humans learn how to talk– a recent study showing that the two are linked to the same genes. Studying human speech that has been impaired by alcohol has always been a difficult task for scientists because there are very few animals that have a comparable vocal capability. Luckily, these birds had no problem slurping down some alcohol to the point of a .08 BAC. For the sake of science, of course.
“The most pronounced effects were decreased amplitude and increased entropy,” the researchers wrote in the study. As The Washington Post points out, this means (in real people terms) that the songs go quieter and more jumbled.
Researches were able to find, however, that specific parts of the birdsongs were more greatly affected than others. Much like human speech is structured in a particular way, birds sing in very defined syllables. With the results showing that different syllables were impaired more than others, scientists think this might mean that alcohol affects certain parts of the birds’ brain circuitry. This is just the beginning of a new light into the world of drunk birds. Hopefully this will not mean we will be awoken on beautiful Spring mornings to some avian bro crooning “Don’t Stop Believing” after a long night out of the nest.
[h/t NPR, The Washington Post]