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Five Minutes with Olaf Sporns

Five Minutes with Olaf Sporns

“The ubiquity and utility of networks has given rise to a new interdisciplinary field called network science, devoted to new methods, tools, and theoretical ideas that aim to understand complex systems from a network perspective.”

We’re excited to introduce Network Neuroscience, the latest journal to join our open access program. We speak with Dr. Olaf Sporns, MIT Press author and Distinguished Professor, Provost Professor, and Robert H. Shaffer Chair, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Indiana University, Bloomington. Dr. Sporns is editor of Network Neuroscience, which will launch in 2017.

A Bird’s-Eye View of Human Language and Evolution

A Bird’s-Eye View of Human Language and Evolution

It's National Bird Day! We are celebrating with a passage by Robert Berwick and Noam Chomsky from Birdsong, Speech, and Languagewhich considers the cognitive and neural similarities between birdsong and human speech and language.

Scholars have long been captivated by the parallels between birdsong and human speech and language. Over two thousand years ago, Aristotle had already observed in his Historia Animalium (about 350 BCE) that some songbirds, like children, acquire sophisticated, patterned vocalizations, “ articulated voice, ” in part from listening to adult “ tutors ” but also in part via prior predisposition: “ Some of the small birds do not utter the same voice as their parents when they sing, if they are reared away from home and hear other birds singing. A nightingale has already been observed teaching its chick, suggesting that [birdsong] . . . is receptive to training ” ( Hist. Anim. 1970, 504a35 – 504b3; 536b, 14 – 20 ). Here Aristotle uses the Greek word dialektos to refer to song variation, paralleling human speech, and even anticipates recent work on how the songs of isolated juvenile vocal learning birds might “ drift ” from those of their parents over successive generations. Given two millennia of progress from neuroscience to genomics, we might expect that our insights regarding the parallels between birdsong and human language have advanced since Aristotle ’ s day. But how much have we learned? That is the aim of this book: What can birdsong tell us today about the biology of human speech and language? 

Spotlight on Science: Rosa Arriaga

Spotlight on Science: Rosa Arriaga

We are inundated with stimuli every day. How do our brains make sense of all the data flooding our senses? How do we recognize these stimuli for sounds or objects? For this month’s Spotlight on Science Q&A, we spoke with Rosa I. Arriaga (Georgia Institute of Technology), one of the authors of “Visual Categorization with Random Projection.” This study appeared in the October 2015 issue of Neural Computation and was the most popular article for the journal in the past year (source: Altmetric.com). Read the article for free on our SOS page.