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Erich Jarvis Headshot

Erich Jarvis, Ph.D.

Rockefeller University


Using innovative research techniques that often defy convention, this leading neurobiologist is demonstrating what songbirds can reveal about the evolution of human language and learned behavior. The next time you hear the melodious sound of a songbird, think of what these birds may one day tell us about the origins of human language and how our brain learns behavior. Such is the research focus of neurobiologist Erich Jarvis.
His work thus far has resulted in some compelling hypotheses, including: establishing a close anatomical similarity in the brain mechanisms that control vocal communication in songbirds and humans. “What birds and humans seem to have in common is a connection between the front part of the brain, and nerves in the brainstem, that control movement—namely, muscles for producing songs in birds and speech in humans,” Erich says.

Erich (who, before deciding on a career in science, was invited to audition for the prestigious Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre in Harlem) graduated from Hunter College in New York City with a bachelor's degree in Biology and Mathematics and later earned his Ph.D. Neurobiology and Animal Behavior from Rockefeller University.

Erich is the recipient of key awards and honors for his achievements, including: One of the highest awards given by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) -- the NIH Director's Pioneer Award, and one of the highest given by the National Science Foundation (NSF) -- the NSF Alan T. Waterman Award. He is also a research investigator of the prestigious Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Science Programs at Allen Institute