Evolution and neural mechanisms of vocal learning
Speaker: Erich Jarvis, Rockefeller University
Erich Jarvis, Ph.D., studies the molecular and genetic mechanisms that underlie vocal learning, using birdsong as a primary model for human spoken language. He has developed an integrative approach that combines computational, behavioral, physiological, and molecular techniques to uncover not only the neural genetics of vocal learning, but also the evolution of this complex behavior. Dr. Jarvis’s studies comparing neural structure and gene expression in songbirds and other species have led him to theorize that the brain pathways for vocal learning in both birds and humans likely evolved from a motor circuit common to all vertebrates. By harnessing new technologies to elucidate the biological mechanisms that underlie vocal learning, Dr. Jarvis is further exploring how neural circuits are established.