Neural Mechanisms Underlying Vocal Learning and Communication

Humans are excellent vocal learners. Infants learn to produce complex vocal patterns of their native language from their parents. Research in our laboratory focuses on the question of how animals learn to produce their complex vocalizations from other individuals during a critical period of development, and more broadly, how experience during early life shapes the functioning of the nervous system and individuals’ perception and behavior.  To address these questions we mainly study songbirds, a great model system for studying the neural substrates of vocal learning, with a long-term goal of contributing to our understanding of speech and developmental learning mechanisms in humans that benefits our society.  The lab utilizes variety of techniques, including electrophysiology, behavioral manipulations, pharmacology, Ca2+ imaging, and optogenetics in songbirds, as well as psychophysics and behavioral testing in humans.