Novo Nordisk Fonden - Biovidenskab og Basal Biomedicin - Give voice to your body: Decoding vocal motor control

Projekter: ProjektForskning



Communication by sound is the fastest, most accurate, and information-rich modality for all vertebrates, with human speech at the pinnacle of its complexity. Although we understand the physics of speech production in humans well, we lack the experimental neurobiological possibilities to understand its learned control and associated diseases. In contrast, through studying songbirds -the best experimental animal model available for human speech acquisition- we have the potential to quantify the entire neuromechanical control system of which brain and vocal organ form integral parts. However, in songbirds we primarily understand the neural mechanisms underlying imitative vocal learning, and not how the motor output of neural networks is translated into sound by
the vocal organ.
Here we propose a cutting-edge multidisciplinary approach to answer the fundamental question, How is neural activity translated into sound? We will depart from correlative principles and aim to causally link motor control
and vocal learning (brain) to voice production (body). First we will quantify synergistic motor control and learning strategies by capitalizing on our recently
developed in vivo chronically implantable electrode array made from novel nanomaterials. Furthermore we will map vocal muscle function in our unique ex vivo setup. Second we will test state-of-the-art high-fidelity computational models for voice production with our unique experimental data. Because we cannot experimentally quantify the entire vocal motor control space, we will successively employ our models in a brute force approach to decode the vast vocal control space.
We think this proposal will have broad impact on neural control of complex motor systems. We also think that our high-fidelity models will pave the way for computer-guided vocal fold surgery, while our electrode array has an
enormous potential for advancing scientific and biomedical applications, e.g. neural prosthetics and brain– machine interfaces.
Effektiv start/slut dato01/01/201831/12/2020