SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 26 (Xinhua) -- A researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, has received a grant to study the neurobiological basis of language learning in the mammalian brain using an unusual model system: the bat.
The grant, 1.5 million U.S. dollars over five years from the New York Stem Cell Foundation (NYSCF), will go to Michael Yartsev, assistant professor in the Department of Bioengineering at UC Berkeley, according to a news release from the school in northern California.
Very little has been known about the neurobiological mechanisms of language learning in mammals because very few species of mammals have language learning abilities. Those do have the abilities are cetaceans, such as whales, elephants, bats and humans. While whales and elephants are too large to study in a laboratory, bats are not.
Yartsev's lab, dubbed the NeuroBat lab, is developing and employing novel technologies, including wireless neural recording, optogenetics, imaging and anatomical mapping, to address the core question of what is it about human brains that allows people to learn language.
"Language development disorders are a major problem in human societies," Yartsev said. "We can really impact the welfare of children, and society in general, by deciphering the underlying neural mechanisms of these disorders. Cracking this complex problem can assist children and adults worldwide since, after all, language is a crucial part of the life of humans across all societies."