Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine.
Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Department of Neurology

Santosh A. Helekar, M.D., Ph.D.

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

Phone: 713-441-4389

Research Interests:

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

Selected Publications: