Prof Sonja  Vernes

Prof Sonja Vernes

Professor

Researcher profile

Email
scv1@st-andrews.ac.uk

 

Research areas

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.

PhD supervision

  • Nikita Groot

Selected publications

  • Open access

    ARHGEF39, a gene implicated in developmental language disorder, activates RHOA and is involved in cell de-adhesion and neural progenitor cell proliferation

    Anijs, M., Devanna, P. & Vernes, S. C., 25 Jul 2022, In: Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience. 15, 941494.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  • Open access

    Contradictory phylogenetic signals in the laurasiatheria anomaly zone

    Doronina, L., Hughes, G. M., Moreno-Santillan, D., Lawless, C., Lonergan, T., Ryan, L., Jebb, D., Kirilenko, B. M., Korstian, J. M., Dávalos, L. M., Vernes, S. C., Myers, E. W., Teeling, E. C., Hiller, M., Jermiin, L. S., Schmitz, J., Springer, M. S. & Ray, D. A., 26 Apr 2022, In: Genes. 13, 5, 17 p., 766.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  • Open access

    The era of reference genomes in conservation genomics

    Formenti, G., Theissinger, K., Fernandes, C., Bista, I., Bombarely, A., Bleidorn, C., Ciofi, C., Crottini, A., Godoy, J. A., Höglund, J., Malukiewicz, J., Mouton, A., Oomen, R. A., Paez, S., Palsbøll, P. J., Pampoulie, C., Ruiz-López, M. J., Svardal, H., Theofanopoulou, C., de Vries, J., Waldvogel, A-M., Zhang, G., Mazzoni, C. J., Jarvis, E. D., Bálint, M., Vernes, S. C. & European Reference Genome Atlas (ERGA) Consortium, Mar 2022, In: Trends in Ecology & Evolution. 37, 3, p. 197-202 6 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • Open access

    The pale spear-nosed bat: a neuromolecular and transgenic model for vocal learning

    Vernes, S., Devanna, P., Hoerpel, S., van Tussenbroek, I. A., Firzlaff, U., Hagoort, P., Hiller, M., Hoeksema, N., Hughes, G. M., Lavrichenko, K., Mengede, J., Morales, A. & Wiesmann, M., Nov 2022, In: Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 1517, 1, p. 125-142 18 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  • Open access

    DNA methylation predicts age and provides insight into exceptional longevity of bats

    Wilkinson, G. S., Adams, D. M., Haghani, A., Lu, A. T., Zoller, J., Breeze, C. E., Arnold, B. D., Ball, H. C., Carter, G. G., Cooper, L. N., Dechmann, D. K. N., Devanna, P., Fasel, N. J., Galazyuk, A. V., Günther, L., Hurme, E., Jones, G., Knörnschild, M., Lattenkamp, E. Z., Li, C. Z., Mayer, F., Reinhardt, J. A., Medellin, R. A., Nagy, M., Pope, B., Power, M. L., Ransome, R. D., Teeling, E. C., Vernes, S. C., Zamora-Mejías, D., Zhang, J., Faure, P. A., Greville, L. J. & Horvath, S., 12 Mar 2021, In: Nature Communications. 12, 13 p., 1615.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  • Open access

    Hearing sensitivity and amplitude coding in bats are differentially shaped by echolocation calls and social calls

    Lattenkamp, E. Z., Nagy, M., Drexl, M., Vernes, S. C., Wiegrebe, L. & Knörnschild, M., 13 Jan 2021, In: Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 288, 1942, 10 p., 20202600.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  • Open access

    Hyperkinetic stereotyped movements in a boy with biallelic CNTNAP2 variants

    Scala, M., Anijs, M., Battini, R., Madia, F., Capra, V., Scudieri, P., Verrotti, A., Zara, F., Minetti, C., Vernes, S. C. & Striano, P., 12 Oct 2021, In: Italian Journal of Pediatrics. 47, 5 p., 208.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  • Open access

    Large-scale genome sampling reveals unique immunity and metabolic adaptations in bats

    Moreno Santillán, D. D., Lama, T. M., Gutierrez Guerrero, Y. T., Brown, A. M., Donat, P., Zhao, H., Rossiter, S. J., Yohe, L. R., Potter, J. H., Teeling, E. C., Vernes, S. C., Davies, K. T. J., Myers, E., Hughes, G. M., Huang, Z., Hoffmann, F., Corthals, A. P., Ray, D. A. & Dávalos, L. M., 4 Jul 2021, (E-pub ahead of print) In: Molecular Ecology. Early View, 19 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  • Open access

    Neuroanatomy of the grey seal brain: bringing pinnipeds into the neurobiological study of vocal learning

    Hoeksema, N., Verga, L., Mengede, J., van Roessel, C., Villanueva, S., Salazar-Casals, A., Rubio-Garcia, A., Ćurčić-Blake, B., Vernes, S. C. & Ravignani, A., 25 Oct 2021, In: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 376, 1836, 4 p., 20200252.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  • Open access

    The multi-dimensional nature of vocal learning

    Vernes, S., Kriengwatana, B. P., Beeck, V., Fischer, J., Tyack, P. L., ten Cate, C. & Janik, V. M., 25 Oct 2021, In: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. B, Biological Sciences. 376, 1836, 15 p., 20200236.

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

 

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