ANI[ WEDNESDAY, JUNE 30, 2004 04:28:00 PM ]

WASHINGTON: Canadian researchers have found that birds are better at identifying, classifying, and memorising absolute pitches than both humans and rats, with humans performing just slightly better than rats.

"It's amazing how dissimilar the results of this test are when you compare humans and birds. Humans and rats are weak by any standard, and they're just awful when you compare them to the songbirds," said Dr Chris Sturdy, a psychology professor at the University of Alberta.

Human beings performed better in tests of relative pitch, i.e. two sounds played back to back, providing them a reference to identify another. But, when asked to comprehend absolute pitch, which is played alone, they failed to recognise it.

"How animals understand absolute pitch may get to the heart of the origins of musical perception. Once we can determine the extent of the differences in absolute pitch perception, then we can begin to understand why these differences exist and why our mammalian brains work the way they do," Sturdy added.

Human beings were rewarded in monetary terms when they memorized or recognized the pitches that were played for them, whereas the birds and the rats were given food rewards.