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Traffic noise disrupts vocal development and suppresses immune function

Brumm, Henrik, Goymann, Wolfgang, Derégnaucourt, Sébastien, Geberzahn, Nicole and Zollinger, Sue Anne ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8819-2606 (2021) Traffic noise disrupts vocal development and suppresses immune function. Science Advances, 7 (20).

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Abstract

Noise pollution has been linked to learning and language deficits in children, but the causal mechanisms connecting noise to cognitive deficiencies remain unclear because experimental models are lacking. Here, we investigated the effects of noise on birdsong learning, the primary animal model for vocal learning and speech development in humans. We found that traffic noise exposure retarded vocal development and led to learning inaccuracies. In addition, noise suppressed immune function during the sensitive learning period, indicating that it is a potent stressor for birds, which is likely to compromise their cognitive functions. Our results provide important insights into the consequences of noise pollution and pave the way for future studies using birdsong as an experimental model for the investigation of noise-induced learning impairments.

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