During a conversation, our brain must interpret what we hear and control our vocal response. How does the brain transform these auditory sensations into action? My laboratory uses singing mice as a model system to investigate the neural circuits in the brain that underlie vocal communication in mammals.
Social animals must interact with each other to cooperate and compete. Using sounds for such interactions is common across many taxa. Humans engaged in conversation, for example, take rapid turns to go back and forth–a feat that most of us tend to perform effortlessly, but which breaks down during neuropsychiatric disorders. Our understanding of neural circuits that underlie vocal communication, especially in mammals, remains quite rudimentary. Recently, we have discovered that a neo-tropical rodent, Alston’s singing mouse, engages in fast vocal interactions, even under laboratory settings. The Banerjee lab, using this novel model system, seeks to pursue two complementary questions. First, how does the auditory system interact with the motor system to generate the sensorimotor loop required for vocal communication? Second, what are the neural circuit modifications that allow behavioral novelty to emerge during evolution? Various rodent species exhibit marked differences in vocal behaviors. Genes that determine such behavioral differences, for example between the singing mouse and the lab mouse, must act via neural circuits within the brain. Yet, the structural and functional changes in the brain that specify the distinct vocal repertoires across related species remain unknown. Research in the lab combines cutting-edge systems neuroscience and comparative evolutionary analyses of neural circuitry across rodent species to bridge this knowledge-gap.
2017 Selected as a Junior Fellow at the Simons Foundation Society of Fellows, NY.
2016 National Science Foundation Travel Award, AREADNE conference, Santorini, Greece.
2015 Best Talk at the Graduate Student Symposium, CSHL, USA.
2007 Karyn Kupcinet International Summer Fellowship, Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel.
Singing mice will teach us about our own conversations
November 9, 2020
Assistant Professor Arkarup Banerjee joins the neuroscience faculty, focusing on how the mind processes information and produces behaviors.
Simons Foundation: Singing Mice Hint at How Sensory Input Turns Into Behavior
NY Times: These Mice Sing to One Another—Politely
Discover Magazine: These Singing Mice Take Turns During Duets, Offering Insights into Human Speech
ARS Technica: Singing mice could offer clues about how human brains manage conversation