phone: (310) 794-1888
office: 1028 TLSB
research interests: Social influences on learning and memory
Our capacity for language is near or at the essence of what makes us human. How this trait evolved is puzzling given that non-human primates can?t learn their vocalizations. (In the wild, adult chimps sound much like baby chimps but with deeper voices.) Precursor ?Homo? groups speaking precursors to language no longer exist. My research group focuses on one aspect of language: the ability of youngsters to listen to and compare their own vocalizations to those of adults and thereby move from babbling to pronouncing interpretable sounds. For this we study songbirds and ask how the puzzle pieces of their brains fit together to accomplish vocal mimicry. We currently focus on a molecule known as FoxP2 that, when disrupted in humans or birds, disrupts speech or song, respectively. FoxP2 connects to the network of molecules that together enable learned vocal communication. We are investigating the functional role of FoxP2 in song and at synapses in the underlying control circuitry. We are also investigating the network of molecules downstream of FOXP2 and their role in disorders of speech including in autism.
Hilliard AT*, Miller JE*, Fraley ER, Horvath S & White SA, "Molecular microcircuitry underlies the functional specification of a basal ganglia circuit dedicated to vocal learning", Neuron, 73 : 537-552 (2012) .
White, S.A., "Genes and vocal learning", Brain and Language, 115 : 21-28 (2011) .
Panaitof, S.C., Abrahams, B.S., Dong, H., Geschwind, D.H. and White, S.A., "Language-related Cntnap2 gene is differentially expressed in sexually dimorphic nuclei essential for vocal learning in songbirds", Journal of Comparative Neurology, 5 : 1995-2018 (2010) .
Miller, J.E., Hilliard, A.T. and White, S.A., "Song practice promotes acute vocal variability during sensorimotor learning", PLoS ONE, 5 : e8592- (2010) .
Teramitsu, I. and White, S.A., "Motor learning: The FoxP2 Puzzle Piece", Current Biology, R335-R337 (2008) .
Miller, J.E., Spiteri, E, Condro, M.C., Dosumu-Johnson, R., Geschwind, D.H. and White, S.A., "Birdsong decreases protein levels of FoxP2, a molecule required for human speech", Journal of Neurophysiology, 100 : 2015-2025 (2008) .
Miller, J.E. and White, S.A., "The sleeping bird gets the song. Focus on: "HVC neural sleep activity increases with development and parallels nightly changes in song behavior"", Journal of Neurophysiology, 98 : 3-4 (2007) .
Poopatanapong, A., Teramitsu, I., Byun, J.S., Vician, L.J., Herschman, H.R. & White, S.A., "Singing, but not seizure induces Synaptoagmin IV in zebra finch song cirguit nuclei", Journal of Neurobiology, 1613-1629 (2006) .
White, S.A., Fisher, S.E., Geschwind, D.H., Scharff, C. and Holy, T.E., "Singing mice and songbirds: animal models for FOXP2 function and dysfunction in human speech", Journal of Neuroscience, 26 : 10376-10379 (2006) .
Teramitsu I & White SA, "FoxP2 regulation during undirected singing in adult songbirds", Journal of Neuroscience, 26 : 7390-7394 (2006) .