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How can animal communication help us understand language?

Mike Bowers, Asstistant Professor, School of Neuroscience

Dr. Mike Bowers

March 18, 2017
An interactive session led by Dr. Mike Bowers

Assistant Professor in the School of Neuroscience at Virginia Tech

Animals communicate in a variety of ways. These communication signals can include vocal growls from a lion or the wiggle of the tail from a dog. In fact, some animals communicate using sounds humans are not able to hear. We humans share with animals this capacity to communicate, but little is known about how the brain learns and uses language. The lecture will describe how investigating the communication systems and the brains of animals can help us to better understand neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism that have communication impairments.

Dr. Mike Bowers is an Assistant Professor in the School of Neuroscience at Virginia Tech. Dr. Bowers received his B.S. in biology and psychology at Oklahoma State University. He received his M.S in linguistics from the University of New Mexico and his PhD in experimental psychology from Oklahoma State University. He performed is postdoctoral training at the University of Maryland School of Medicine under the mentorship of Dr. Margaret McCarthy where he learned detailed aspects of neuroendocrinology and molecular biology. As a postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Bowers gained international distinction for his discovery of a sex difference for a gene called FOXP2, which is responsible for brain development and language. Dr. Bowers now leads his own research team at Virginia Tech where they focus on discovering how sex hormones and genes impact the development of the brain circuits responsible for language and communication disorders such as autism and stuttering.