Erich Jarvis is a neurobiologist at Duke University Medical Center. He heads a team of researchers in the field of vocal communication. The Jarvis Lab's research of songbirds, parrots, and hummingbirds sheds light on how the brain is able to learn the behavior of sound. Jarvis's work on bird brains may have applications to the treatment speech problems in humans, such as stuttering. In October 2005, Dr. Jarvis won the National Institutes of Health's Director's Pioneer Award, which provides $500,000 per year for five years to researchers pursuing innovative approaches to biomedical research.
Dr. Jarvis' laboratory studies the neurobiology of vocal communication. Emphasis is placed on the molecular pathways involved in the perception and production of learned vocalizations. We use an integrative approach that combines behavioral, anatomical and molecular biological techniques. The main animal model used is songbirds, one of the few vertebrate groups that evolved the ability to learn their vocalizations. The generality of the discoveries is tested in other vocal learning orders, such as parrots and hummingbirds, as well as non-vocal learners, such as pigeons and non-human primates.