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Center on Human Development and Disability
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Eliot Brenowitz, Ph.D.

Professor of Psychology and Biology
Research Affiliate, Center on Human Development and Disability
eliotb@uw.edu
206-543-8534
University of Washington,
Box 351525
Seattle, WA 98195-1525

Dr. Brenowitz studies the song systems of birds as a model for the effect of hormones on neurodevelopment in humans, especially vocal learning and processes that damage and protect neurons.  There are behavioral and possible biochemical parallels between the ways young birds learn song and human children learn language. Both memorize vocalizations by listening to and imitating adults.  In birds, this process is extremely sensitive to fluctuations in steroid sex hormones, with the parts of the brain that control song rapidly adding and pruning neurons in response to hormone fluctuations.

Neuron receptors for the hormones that influence song learning in birds are also found in the speech production and perception areas of the human cortex. Speculation that these receptors may be active during neurodevelopment are supported by anecdotal evidence indicating that speech learning in children may be influenced by steroid sex hormones.  Brenowitz’s studies of the neurotropic (growth stimulating) and neuroprotective effects of steroids on the avian song system may illuminate fundamental neurotropic and neuroprotective processes that underlie the influences of steroids on human development and developmental disorders.


Eliot Brenowitz's webpage


University of Washington • Center on Human Development and Disability • Box 357920 • Seattle WA 98195-7920 USA • 206-543-7701 • chdd@uw.edu