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Call for papers - Behavioral neuroscience of vocal learning in avian and mammalian species

Guest Editors:
Bradley M. Colquitt: University of California, Santa Cruz, US
Jasmine L. Loveland: University of Vienna, Austria
Yisi Zhang: Tsinghua University, China

Submission Status: Open   |   Submission Deadline: 26 July 2024

BMC Neuroscience is now considering submissions to a new Collection focusing on the behavioral neuroscience of vocal learning. This Collection aims to explore the intricate neural underpinnings of vocal learning, an extraordinary phenomenon observed in select avian and mammalian species. Through highlighting innovative research into this phenomenon, we hope to deepen our understanding of the fundamental principles that govern learning, communication, bioacoustics, and cognition across diverse organisms.

Meet the Guest Editors

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Bradley M. Colquitt: Department of Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology, University of California, Santa Cruz, US

Dr Colquitt’s work focuses on the development and evolution of complex behavior, using birdsong and its neural circuitry as a model system. Before starting his lab at UCSC, he completed his postdoc in Dr Michael Brainard’s lab at UCSF/HHMI, where he performed comparative cellular transcriptomics of the songbird brain and studied the molecular systems that influence birdsong learning and plasticity. He earned his PhD at UCSF in Dr Stavros Lomvardas’s lab (now at Columbia University) studying the roles of DNA modifications during olfactory system development. 

Jasmine L. Loveland: Department of Behavioral and Cognitive Biology, University of Vienna, Austria

Dr Loveland is a neurobiologist with a strong interest in how conserved neuron types and brain structures can provide the basis for behavioral diversity, particularly in aggression and courtship. Her current research as a Lise Meitner Fellow combines behavior, hormones, neuroanatomy, and transcriptomics analyses to understand how alternative mating tactics link to a chromosome inversion in male ruffs (Calidris pugnax). She began working with ruffs as a postdoc at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in the group of Clemens Küpper. Her research portfolio is diverse and includes studies on serotonin and nonapeptides (vasotocin and mesotocin), neural correlates of imprinting in chicks (University of Trento, Dr Giorgio Vallortigara), taste processing and food intake regulation in rats (Amherst College, Dr John-Paul Baird) and evolution of ribozymes (Smith College, Dr Robert Dorit). She received her PhD in Biology from Stanford University.

Yisi Zhang: Department of Psychology, Tsinghua University, China

Dr Yisi Zhang is an Associate Professor in the Psychology Department of Tsinghua University. Before joining Tsinghua in 2023, she was a postdoc in Dr Asif Ghazanfar’s lab at Princeton, where she studied the neural and biomechanical mechanisms of vocal communication and its development using the marmoset monkey as a model. Her current research aims to understand how prosocial characteristics influence vocal communication, cooperation, and the underpinning biological mechanisms. 

About the collection

BMC Neuroscience is calling for submissions to our Collection on the behavioral neuroscience of vocal learning. 

Vocal learning, a rare cognitive skill exhibited by select species, encompasses the acquisition, production, and modification of vocalizations through imitation and social interaction. The development of this multifaceted process involves an intricate interplay of neural circuits, molecular mechanisms, hormone circulation, genetic predispositions, and environmental influences affecting certain organisms. While significant strides have been made in demystifying the neural mechanisms underlying vocal learning, there still exist numerous areas of inquiry that hold great potential for further exploration. 

Promising areas of study include the interplay between genetic factors, hormone levels, and environmental influences in vocal learning skill acquisition, as well as the ways in which each might affect individual or species-specific variations in vocal learning abilities. Advances in neuroimaging techniques have also aided in our understanding of this phenomenon and enabled researchers to map casual relationships between specific brain regions and vocal behaviors. Vocal learning research has even expanded into translational work on neurodevelopmental disorders, providing insights on potential interventions for communication-related disorders. 

In order to gain a better understanding of the minds of mammals and birds and the neurogenesis of vocal neurons, continued neuroethological research is essential. This Collection aims to further this mission. 

Topics of interest to this Collection include, but are not limited to:
  •  Brain connectivity and network dynamics in vocal learning
  •  Interplay of neurogenetic, environmental, and hormonal factors on the development of vocal learning skills
  •  Neural mechanisms of vocal learning in songbirds and other avian species, from gene expression to circuit-level plasticity
  •  Neural representation of songs and/or vocalizations across diverse species
  •  Molecular and cellular specializations that enable vocal learning and vocal motor control
  •  Effects of sex hormones on the neurogenesis of vocal motor neural circuits and on the response of auditory forebrain circuits
  •  Evolutionary implications of vocal learning, i.e., how vocal learning contributes to mate choice, social dynamics, and species diversification
  •  Cross-disciplinary research into vocal learning 
  •  Developments in our understanding of the neural bases of vocal learning in mammalian species

Image credit: Ron_Lane / Getty Images / iStock

There are currently no articles in this collection.

Submission Guidelines

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This Collection welcomes submission of original Research Articles. Should you wish to submit a different article type, please read our submission guidelines to confirm that type is accepted by the journal. Articles for this Collection should be submitted via our submission system, Snapp. During the submission process you will be asked whether you are submitting to a Collection, please select "Behavioral neuroscience of vocal learning in avian and mammalian species" from the dropdown menu.

Articles will undergo the journal’s standard peer-review process and are subject to all of the journal’s standard policies. Articles will be added to the Collection as they are published.

The Guest Editors have no competing interests with the submissions which they handle through the peer review process. The peer review of any submissions for which the Guest Editors have competing interests is handled by another Editorial Board Member who has no competing interests.