Michael M. Yartsev, Ph.D.

Title
Assistant Professor
Department
Department of Neuroscience and Bioengineering
Institution
University of California, Berkeley
Address
Li Ka Shing Center RM 282
City, State, Zip
Berkeley, CA 94720
Phone
(510) 664-7994
E-mail
myartsev[at]berkeley.edu
Website
http://www.michaelyartsev.com
Research Field
Neuroscience
Award Year
2016

Research

I will investigate the neural mechanisms that allow bats to learn their vocal communication signals. The ability to acquire a language is highly unique in the animal kingdom, and only a handful of species possess this rare capacity. Humans have mastered this skill, as have songbirds; however, the avian brain is starkly different from that of humans, a fact that inspired me to identify a mammalian system in which to study vocal development. Like birds, bats possess this capacity—and their brains are structurally very similar to our own. As a graduate student, I pioneered techniques for monitoring the activities of neurons in freely flying and behaving fruit bats. Now, combining these sophisticated methods with further novel techniques in neurobiology and behavior, I will study how the mammalian brain facilitates vocal learning. This work—the first to explore vocal learning at a cellular level in a mammalian brain—could provide insights into the evolution of human speech and facilitate novel therapeutic approaches to disorders in which the acquisition or use of language is impaired.