Erich Jarvis is an associate professor of neurobiology at Duke University Medical Center. 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, and molecular biological 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. In 2005 he was awarded the National Institutes of Health Director’s Pioneer Award 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.
Selected Publications on Neurobiology of Vocal Learning
- Jarvis ED, Nottebohm F. Motor-driven gene expression. (1997) http://www.jarvislab.net/Publications/pnas94-4097.pdf Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 94:4097-4102
- Jarvis ED, Scharff C, Grossman M, Ramos JA, Nottebohm F. For whom the bird sings: context-dependent gene expression. (1998) http://www.jarvislab.net/Publications/Neuron21-775.pdf Neuron 21:775-788.
- Jarvis ED, Ribeiro S, Vielliard J, DaSilva M, Ventura D, Mello CV. Behaviorally-driven gene expression reveals hummingbird brain song nuclei. (2000)
- http://www.jarvislab.net/Publications/JarvisEtAl2000(Nature).pdf Nature 406:628-632.
- Jarvis ED. Learned birdsong and the neurobiology of human language.(2004) http://www.jarvislab.net/Publications/Jarvis_Birdsong_Language.pdf Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci. 1016: 746-777.
- Haesler S, Wada K, Nshdejan A, Morrisey E, Lints EKT, Jarvis ED, Scharff C. FoxP2 expression in avian vocal learners and non-learners. (2004) http://www.jarvislab.net/Publications/FoxP2Expression.pdf J. Neurosci. 24:3164-3175
- Jarvis ED, O Güntürkün, L Bruce, A Csillag, HJ Karten, W Kuenzel, L Medina, G Paxinos, DJ Perkel, T Shimizu, GF Striedter, M Wild, GF Ball, J Dugas-Ford, S Durand, G Hough, S Husband, L Kubikova, DW Lee, CV. Mello, A Powers, C Siang, TV Smulders, K Wada, SA White, K Yamamoto, J Yu, A Reiner, AB Butler. Avian Brain Nomenclature Consortium. Avian brains and a new understanding of vertebrate brain evolution. (2005) http://www.jarvislab.net/Publications/avianbrainnomenclature.pdf Nature Rev Neurosci. 6:151-159.
- Mouritsen H, Feenders G, Liedvogel M, Wada K, Jarvis ED. A night vision brain area in migratory songbirds. (2005) http://www.jarvislab.net/Publications/NightVisionBrain.pdf Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 102:8339-8344.
- Wada K, Howard JT, McConnell P, Lints T, Rivas MV, Whitney O, Horita H, Patterson MA, White SA, Scharff C, Heasler S, Zhao S, Sakaguchi H, Hagiwara M, Shiraki T, Hirozane-Kishikawa T, Skene P, Hayashizaki Y, Carninci P, Jarvis ED. A molecular neuroethological approach for identifying and characterizing a cascade of behaviorally regulated genes.(2006) http://www.jarvislab.net/Publications/Wada%20et%20al%20corrected.pdf Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 103:15212-15217.
- Smith VA, Yu J, Smulders TV, Hartemink AJ, Jarvis ED. Computational inference of neural information flow networks. (2006) http://www.jarvislab.net/Publications/Smith%20et%20al%20main%20text%202006.pdf PLoS Comp. Biol. 2:1436-1449.
- Feenders G, Liedvogel M, Rivas MV, Zapka M, Horita H, Hara E, Wada K, Mouritsen H, Jarvis ED. Molecular mapping of movement-associated areas in the avian brain: A Motor theory for vocal learning origin. (2008) http://www.jarvislab.net/Publications/Feenders_et_al_2008.pdf PLoS ONE 3(3): e1768, 1-27.
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, 2nd highest score
- 2000 David and Lucille Packard Foundation Award
- 2000 Hall of Fame: Hunter College Search for Education, Elevation & Knowledge (SEEK), NY
- 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. 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
- 2004 Intranet Linguists of the Year for 2004
- 2005 Dominion Award: Strong Men and Women of Excellence: African American Leaders. Prior awardees include Arthur Ash, Maya Angelou, Oprah Winfrey, and Michael Jordan.
- 2005 NIH Director’s Pioneer Award. Given annually to top ~1.5% of applicants
- 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’s Brilliant 10 of 2006 under the age of 45
- 2007 Mental Floss Magazine’s 10 Trail blazing scientist of 2007
- 2007 Creator Synectics’ top 100 geniuses
- 2008 HHMI Investigator Award
- New York University School of Medicine Invited Speaker 1st Annual Minority Student Conference
- National Academies of Science Evolution and Medicine 2009
- NOVA Science Now
- People Magazine
- My Hero