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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Erich Jarvis is an American professor at The Rockefeller University.[1] He leads a team of researchers who study the neurobiology of vocal learning, a critical behavioral substrate for spoken language. The animal models he studies include songbirds, parrots, and hummingbirds. Like humans, these bird groups have the ability to learn new sounds and pass on their vocal repertoires culturally, from one generation to the next. Jarvis focuses on the molecular pathways involved in the perception and production of learned vocalizations, and the development of brain circuits for vocal learning. To accomplish this objective, Dr. Jarvis takes an integrative approach to research, combining behavioral, anatomical, electrophysiological, molecular biological, and genomic techniques. The discoveries of Dr. Jarvis and his collaborators include the first findings of natural behaviorally regulated gene expression in the brain, social context dependent gene regulation, convergent vocal learning systems across distantly related animal groups, the FOXP2 gene in vocal learning birds, and the finding that vocal learning systems may have evolved out of ancient motor learning systems.

In 2002, the National Science Foundation awarded Jarvis its highest honor for a young researcher, the Alan T. Waterman Award.[2] In 2005 he was awarded the National Institutes of Health Director’s Pioneer Award[3] providing funding for five years to researchers pursuing innovative approaches to biomedical research. In 2008 Dr. Jarvis was selected to the prestigious position of Investigator for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.[4]

Jarvis was an associate professor of neurobiology at Duke University Medical Center until he moved to Rockefeller in December 2016.

Jarvis received a B.A. from Hunter College and a Ph.D. from The Rockefeller University under Dr. Fernando Nottebohm.

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • ✪ Erich Jarvis on Theories About the Origin of Vocal Learning
  • ✪ The Moth: Making It - Erich Jarvis
  • ✪ Brain Evolution: How Birds and Humans Learn to Sing and Talk by Dr. Erich Jarvis


so this has been a big question is - how did vocal learning circuits evolve to answer that question we also need to understand what are these vocal learning circuits well only a few species have them us humans these songbirds a few others I'll tell you about in a minute and they all have a similar brain pathway that we and others discovered in our fore brain that controls the muscles that produces sound and what's interesting is in all the species that we discovered this vocal learning pathway it's embedded in another pathway that all species have learning how to control our movements and wings for flying learning how to walk and so forth so this led to a new theory called the motor theory of vocal learning origin where we think that the speech vocal learning circuits in our brain and these birds evolved by duplicating the pathway that controls other body parts and now hooking it up to the voice instead of learning how to walk learning how to talk so basically the vocal learning circuit is a motor learning circuit and in terms of who has it and why so few species well like I said us humans but there are a few other mammals elephants dolphins and whales well they call pinnipeds those of like seals and walruses and also of bats in the ultrasonic range that we can't hear and there are only three groups of birds these songbirds like the zebra finch hummingbirds and parrots you just heard along to learn a song and what that guy is trying to do is to sing to the females to say my song sounds sexy be with me and we think that's one of the things that selecting for vocal learning but why so few species well I think that predators are selecting against it if you evolve this thing to keep attention to the opposite sex you're also keeping attention to the Predators out there and you could be eaten but the ones like us like humans and dolphins whales the top predators can evade these other ones the common ancestor of these birds and songbirds and parrots was a apex predator so that's one theory there are many other theories it's a why so few species have it may be the ones that have the bigger brains songbirds have a bigger brain than other species humans have a bigger brain than other mammal species another is something about the social interaction of the species creates this environment for the genetic mechanisms to cause a brain circuit to evolve more social complex behaviors but I like the predator Hut and the sexual selection hypothesis is the best it makes more sense of what we're seeing like these guys seem to attract the female but there is one more new theory that we've come up with that explains both of these questions about where the circuits for vocal leaning came from and why so few species we call it the Continuum Hypothesis of vocal learning and the discovery for that came from studying mice we found that mice actually have a rudimentary brain circuit that we find in humans for speech in song birds for song and they have some rudimentary abilities to change their songs that the females like and so what we think could be happening is that maybe it's not a black or white world the haves and the have-nots but it's a continuum like turning up the dial or turning down the dial to make the behavior more complex or less complex and in humans we're at this end of the continuum mice and some other species frogs at this end and other species in between so we're testing this continuum hypothesis and how we're testing it well if mice are somewhere in the middle or even yeah a little bit at the other end of the continuum can we take the human genes put it in a mouse brain in the mouse cells in the mouse genome and push that Mouse to dial up the dial along that continuum and to get it to be more like a song even us


Awards and honors

  • 1986 First Place Award for Excellence in Biomedical Research, NIH-MBRS Annual Symposium
  • 2000 Esther & Joseph Klingenstein Award in Neuroscience
  • 2000 Whitehall Foundation Award in Neuroscience
  • 2000 David and Lucille Packard Foundation Award
  • 2001 Duke University Provost Bioinformatic Award
  • 2002 Duke University Provost Computational Biology Award
  • 2002 Hall of Fame: Alumni Association of Hunter College
  • 2002 Human Frontiers in Science Program Young Investigators Award
  • 2002 NSF Alan T. Waterman Award.[5] NSF’s highest award for young investigators given annually to one scientist or engineer who under the age of 35 made a significant discovery/impact in science. Awarded for molecular approach and findings to map brain areas involved in behavior.
  • 2003 The 2003 Distinguished Alumni Award of the City University of New York
  • 2005 Dominion Award: Strong Men and Women of Excellence: African American Leaders.[6] Prior awardees include Arthur Ashe, Maya Angelou, Oprah Winfrey, and Michael Jordan.
  • 2005 NIH Director’s Pioneer Award[7]
  • 2006 Discover magazine top 100 science discoveries of 2005; avian brain nomenclature listed at #51
  • 2006 Diverse magazine’s top 10 emerging scholars of 2006
  • 2006 Popular Science Magazine: Named in Fifth Annual Brilliant Ten[8]
  • 2008 HHM Investigator Award
  • 2015 Ernest Everett Just Award, American Society for Cell Biology[9]



  1. ^ Fenz, Katherine (12 July 2016). "Rockefeller's newest faculty member studies birdsong to illuminate the origins of human language".
  2. ^ Singing In The Brain Archived 2008-10-07 at the Wayback Machine, Duke Magazine, Nov-Dec 2001.
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-06-09. Retrieved 2007-05-29.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link), Duke News
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-09-21. Retrieved 2009-02-10.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link), Dukehealth.
  5. ^ "Alan T. Waterman Award Recipients, 1976 - present [2016]". National Science Foundation. Retrieved 12 February 2018.
  6. ^ "Dominion Honors Nine in 15th Annual Strong Men and Women Educational Series". 20 January 2005.
  7. ^ "Erich Jarvis Receives NIH Pioneer Award". Duke Today. 29 September 2005.
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Erich D. Jarvis Receives 2015 Ernest Everett Just Award from the American Society for Cell Biology, Writes Associated Essay, "Surviving as an underrepresented minority scientist in a majority environment" | Duke Neurobiology". Retrieved 2018-02-12.

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This page was last edited on 28 December 2018, at 02:22
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