Researchers have long sought to find out how deafening affects the vocal nerve cells.
Using a protein isolated from jellyfish that can make songbird nerve cells glow bright green when viewed under a laser-powered microscope, they were able to determine that deafening triggered rapid changes to the tiny connections between nerve cells, called synapses, which are only one thousandth of a millimeter across.
Advertisement"I was very surprised that the weakening of connections between nerve cells was visible and emerged so rapidly -- over the course of days these changes allowed us to predict which birds' songs would fall apart most dramatically," Tschida said. "Considering that we were only tracking a handful of neurons in each bird, I never thought we'd get information specific enough to predict such a thing."
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