Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California


UC San Francisco Previously Published Works bannerUCSF

Learning is enhanced by tailoring instruction to individual genetic differences


It is widely argued that personalized instruction based on individual differences in learning styles or genetic predispositions could improve learning outcomes. However, this proposition has resisted clear demonstration in human studies, where it is difficult to control experience and quantify outcomes. Here, we take advantage of the tractable nature of vocal learning in songbirds (Lonchura striata domestica) to test the idea that matching instruction to individual genetic predispositions can enhance learning. We use both cross-fostering and computerized instruction with synthetic songs to demonstrate that matching the tutor song to individual predispositions can improve learning across genetic backgrounds. Moreover, we find that optimizing instruction in this fashion can equalize learning differences across individuals that might otherwise be construed as genetically determined. Our results demonstrate potent, synergistic interactions between experience and genetics in shaping song, and indicate the likely importance of such interactions for other complex learned behaviors.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View