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Sonja Vernes


Sonja Vernes leads the Neurogenetics of Vocal Communication Group at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics (Nijmegen, The Netherlands) and is a Principal Investigator at the Donders Institute. Dr. Vernes has established bats as a model system to study the neurogenetics of vocal learning including molecular-genetic studies to examine the function of known vocal learning genes at a molecular, cellular, neural circuit and behavioural level; omics approaches to discover novel genes involved in vocal learning in bats including transcriptomics, network building, de novo genome sequencing and whole genome evolutionary analyses; neurobiological approaches to uncover vocal learning relevant circuits in a mammalian brain and novel behavioural paradigms to determine the extent and qualities of vocal learning abilities in bats. This interdisciplinary research program will give a comprehensive picture of the biological encoding of vocal learning in bats and uses a comparative approach to answer fundamental questions about the neuro-genetic factors underlying vocal learning and how this may have influenced the evolution of spoken language. Dr Vernes is also a director and co-founder of the Bat1k genome project which aims to sequence the genomes of all living bat species. The Bat1k project will be important for understanding vocal learning and will also have much more wide ranging contributions to deciphering the biology of the many other rare and wonderful traits exhibited by bats.

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