Personal profile

Research overview

Sonja Vernes leads the Neurogenetics of Vocal Communication Research Group that studies the genetics of vocal communication in mammals, as a way to understand the evolution and biological basis of human speech and language.

My research program aims to understand the neuro-genetic mechanisms underlying the evolution and encoding of speech and language by studying key language-related traits such as vocal learning. My research uses diverse, interdisciplinary approaches including;

- clinical genetic analyses investigating the genetic causes of speech and language disorders in human cohorts

- omics approaches to discover novel genes involved in vocal learning in animal models including transcriptomics, network building and de novo genome sequencing (with the Bat1K genome sequencing consortium; www.bat1k.com)

- molecular-genetic studies to examine the function of known language-related and vocal learning-related genes (e.g. those identified in clinical genetic studies)

- neurogenetic approaches to uncover vocal learning relevant circuits in a mammalian brain and create links between genes, neurobiology and vocal learning behaviour

- behavioural paradigms to determine the extent of vocal learning abilities in bat species as a model for mammalian vocal learning

This research program is pioneering the use of bats as the first tractable mammalian model of vocal learning in which it is possible to explore the neuro-genetic underpinnings of this complex behavioural trait. This highly interdisciplinary approach aims to answer fundamental questions about how vocal learning evolved, how it is biologically encoded, and inform our understanding of human spoken language and language disorders.

 

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being

External positions

Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics

Keywords

  • QH301 Biology
  • QH426 Genetics
  • RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry

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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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  • Chiropterans are a hotspot for horizontal transfer of DNA transposons in mammalia

    Paulat, N. S., Storer, J. M., Moreno-Santillán, D. D., Osmanski, A. B., Sullivan, K. A. M., Grimshaw, J. R., Korstian, J., Halsey, M., Garcia, C. J., Crookshanks, C., Roberts, J., Smit, A. F. A., Hubley, R., Rosen, J., Teeling, E. C., Vernes, S. C., Myers, E., Pippel, M., Brown, T., Hiller, M., & 6 othersConsortium, Z., Rojas, D., Dávalos, L. M., Lindblad-Toh, K., Karlsson, E. K. & Ray, D. A., 1 May 2023, In: Molecular Biology and Evolution. 40, 5, 14 p., msad092.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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  • DNA methylation networks underlying mammalian traits

    Haghani, A., Li, C. Z., Robeck, T. R., Zhang, J., Lu, A. T., Ablaeva, J., Acosta-Rodríguez, V. A., Adams, D. M., Alagaili, A. N., Almunia, J., Aloysius, A., Amor, N. M. S., Ardehali, R., Arneson, A., Baker, C. S., Banks, G., Belov, K., Bennett, N. C., Black, P., Blumstein, D. T., & 170 othersBors, E. K., Breeze, C. E., Brooke, R. T., Brown, J. L., Carter, G., Caulton, A., Cavin, J. M., Chakrabarti, L., Chatzistamou, I., Chavez, A. S., Chen, H., Cheng, K., Chiavellini, P., Choi, O-W., Clarke, S., Cook, J. A., Cooper, L. N., Cossette, M-L., Day, J., DeYoung, J., Dirocco, S., Dold, C., Dunnum, J. L., Ehmke, E. E., Emmons, C. K., Emmrich, S., Erbay, E., Erlacher-Reid, C., Faulkes, C. G., Fei, Z., Ferguson, S. H., Finno, C. J., Flower, J. E., Gaillard, J-M., Garde, E., Gerber, L., Gladyshev, V. N., Goya, R. G., Grant, M. J., Green, C. B., Hanson, M. B., Hart, D. W., Haulena, M., Herrick, K., Hogan, A. N., Hogg, C. J., Hore, T. A., Huang, T., Izpisua Belmonte, J. C., Jasinska, A. J., Jones, G., Jourdain, E., Kashpur, O., Katcher, H., Katsumata, E., Kaza, V., Kiaris, H., Kobor, M. S., Kordowitzki, P., Koski, W. R., Krützen, M., Kwon, S. B., Larison, B., Lee, S-G., Lehmann, M., Lemaître, J-F., Levine, A. J., Li, X., Li, C., Lim, A. R., Lin, D. T. S., Lindemann, D. M., Liphardt, S. W., Little, T. J., Macoretta, N., Maddox, D., Matkin, C. O., Mattison, J. A., McClure, M., Mergl, J., Meudt, J. J., Montano, G. A., Mozhui, K., Munshi-South, J., Murphy, W. J., Naderi, A., Nagy, M., Narayan, P., Nathanielsz, P. W., Nguyen, N. B., Niehrs, C., Nyamsuren, B., O'Brien, J. K., Ginn, P. OT., Odom, D. T., Ophir, A. G., Osborn, S., Ostrander, E. A., Parsons, K. M., Paul, K. C., Pedersen, A. B., Pellegrini, M., Peters, K. J., Petersen, J. L., Pietersen, D. W., Pinho, G. M., Plassais, J., Poganik, J. R., Prado, N. A., Reddy, P., Rey, B., Ritz, B. R., Robbins, J., Rodriguez, M., Russell, J., Rydkina, E., Sailer, L. L., Salmon, A. B., Sanghavi, A., Schachtschneider, K. M., Schmitt, D., Schmitt, T., Schomacher, L., Schook, L. B., Sears, K. E., Seifert, A. W., Shafer, A. B. A., Shindyapina, A. V., Simmons, M., Singh, K., Sinha, I., Slone, J., Snell, R. G., Soltanmohammadi, E., Spangler, M. L., Spriggs, M., Staggs, L., Stedman, N., Steinman, K. J., Stewart, D. T., Sugrue, V. J., Szladovits, B., Takahashi, J. S., Takasugi, M., Teeling, E. C., Thompson, M. J., Van Bonn, B., Vernes, S. C., Villar, D., Vinters, H. V., Vu, H., Wallingford, M. C., Wang, N., Wilkinson, G. S., Williams, R. W., Yan, Q., Yao, M., Young, B. G., Zhang, B., Zhang, Z., Zhao, Y., Zhao, P., Zhou, W., Zoller, J. A., Ernst, J., Seluanov, A., Gorbunova, V., Yang, X. W., Raj, K. & Horvath, S., 11 Aug 2023, In: Science. 381, 6658, eabq5693.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  • Genotype-phenotype correlation in contactin-associated protein-like 2 (CNTNAP-2) developmental disorder

    D'Onofrio, G., Accogli, A., Severino, M., Caliskan, H., Kokotović, T., Blazekovic, A., Jercic, K. G., Markovic, S., Zigman, T., Goran, K., Barišić, N., Duranovic, V., Ban, A., Borovecki, F., Ramadža, D. P., Barić, I., Fazeli, W., Herkenrath, P., Marini, C., Vittorini, R., & 30 othersGowda, V., Bouman, A., Rocca, C., Alkhawaja, I. A., Murtaza, B. N., Rehman, M. M. U., Al Alam, C., Nader, G., Mancardi, M. M., Giacomini, T., Srivastava, S., Alvi, J. R., Tomoum, H., Matricardi, S., Iacomino, M., Riva, A., Scala, M., Madia, F., Pistorio, A., Salpietro, V., Minetti, C., Rivière, J-B., Srour, M., Efthymiou, S., Maroofian, R., Houlden, H., Vernes, S. C., Zara, F., Striano, P. & Nagy, V., 14 May 2023, In: Human Genetics. 17 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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  • How genomics can help biodiversity conservation

    European Reference Genome Atlas Consortium, Jul 2023, In: Trends in Genetics. 39, 7, p. 545-559 15 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

  • The genome sequence of Molossus nigricans (Chiroptera, Molossidae; Miller, 1902)

    Simmons, N. B., Ingala, M. R., Pieri, M., Volkert, T. L., Singh, L. N., Philip, P., Lindsey, L. L., Zhang, N., Gray, J. L., O'Toole, B. P., Mai, M., Teeling, E. C., Vernes, S. C., Bat Biology Foundation & Bat1K Consortium, 5 May 2023, In: Wellcome Open Research. 8, 13 p., 198.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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