Santosh A. Helekar, M.D., Ph.D.
Director, Songbird Neurophysiology Laboratory
Member, Speech and Language Center
Department of Neurology
Methodist Neurological Institute
Associate Research Professor of Neuroscience
Weill Cornell Medical College
6565 Fannin St., F770A
Houston, TX 77030
Complex behaviors and disorders can be best studied using simple animal models. Birdsong in songbirds such as zebra finches turns out to be a very useful model of speech because of some striking similarities between the two. Both forms of vocal communication are comprised of a well-structured sound output, and are learned from tutors or peers during early development. Both are dependent on hearing and auditory feedback. They are subject to a critical developmental period of acquisition, and they show analogous phases of maturation.
In the Songbird Neurophysiology Laboratory we are interested in zebra finch birdsong from the standpoint of: 1) Understanding how the brain encodes complex sensory percepts such as vocal sounds; 2) investigating brain processes governing vocal learning and mechanisms of neural plasticity; and 3) developing and studying animal models of speech problems such as stuttering, and of developmental learning disabilities. To pursue these research interests we are conducting a series of experiments utilizing a variety of advanced techniques in zebra finches. Our current experiments involve brain functional magnetic resonance imaging, diffusion tensor imaging and local field potential recordings in awake birds, long-term computerized monitoring of birdsong learning, and proteomics of sensorimotor brain structures.
We are also interested in quantitative analysis of functional brain networks to study how conscious behavior is orchestrated by the brain, and how these networks might be altered in patients with cognitive deficits.
M.B.,B.S. University of Bombay, Bombay, India
Ph.D. Baylor College of Medicine
- Maul, K. K., Voss, H. U., Parra, L. C., Salgado-Commissariat, D., Ballon, D., Tchernichovski, O., Helekar, S. A. (2010) The development of stimulus-specific auditory responses requires song exposure in male but not female zebra finches. Dev. Neurobiol. 70(1):28-40.
- Helekar SA, Shin J, Mattson BJ, Bartley K, Stosic M, Saldana-King T, Montague R and Hutton GJ (2010). Functional Brain Network Changes Associated with Maintenance of Cognitive Function in Multiple Sclerosis. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 4:219. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2010.00219
- Voss, H. U., Salgado-Commissariat, D. and Helekar, S. A. (2010) Altered auditory BOLD response to conspecific birdsong in zebra finches with stuttered syllables. PLoS One. 2010 Dec 23;5(12):e14415.
- Benjamin, A., Kashem, M., Cohen, C., Caldwell-Busby, J. A., Salgado-Commissariat, D., Helekar, S. A., Bhattacharya, S. K. (2008) Proteomics of the nucleus ovoidalis and field L brain regions of zebra finch. J. Proteome Res., 7(5):2121-32.
- Voss, H. U., Tabelow, K., Polzehl, J, Tchernichovski, O., Maul, K. K., Salgado-Commissariat, D., Ballon, D. and Helekar, S. A. (2007) Functional MRI suggests a lateralized topography of responses to song stimulation in the zebra finch brain. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. (U.S.A.) 104(25):10667-72.
- Salgado-Commissariat, D., Rosenfield, D. B. and Helekar, S. A. (2004) Nicotinic receptor-mediated plasticity in robust nucleus of the archistriatum of the adult zebra finch. Brain. Res. 1018(1):97-105.
- Espino, G. G., Lewis, C., Rosenfield D. B. and Helekar, S. A. (2003) Modulation of θ/α frequency profiles of slow auditory evoked responses in the songbird zebra finch. Neuroscience. 122(2):521-9.
- Helekar, S. A., Espino, G. G., Botas, A. and Rosenfield, D. B. (2003) Development and adult phase plasticity of syllable repetitions in captive zebra finches. Behav. Neurosci. 117(5):939-51.
- Helekar, S. A., Marsh, S., Viswanath, N. and Rosenfield, D. B. (2000) Acoustic pattern variations in the female-directed birdsongs of a colony of laboratory-bred zebra finches. Behav Process. 49:99-110
- Helekar, S.A. (1999) On the Possibility of Universal Neural Coding of Subjective Experience. Conscious. Cogn. 8(4):423-446.
- Helekar, S.A. and Patrick, J. (1997) The peptidyl prolyl cis-trans isomerase activity of cyclophilin A in homo-oligomeric receptor expression. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 94:5432-5437.