Guest Post: Singing the Noggin Song!

By Elena Mahrt, Zoology/Neuroscience @ Washington State University Vancouver


What a beautiful and terrifying sound! It wavered slightly, as if unsure it should be heard. But after a few moments it smoothed into a steady melody. What was this sound, you ask? Why, it was the sound of my own voice! I will never forget the joy and excitement I felt as I “sang” my “Song of the Noggin” talk at Velo Cult bike shop and pub. Well, okay, I didn’t actually sing. But I did use my deft skills of manipulating vocal sound (speech) to tell the audience about how our brains process sound, speech, and music.

You see, speech and animal acoustic communication have always been fascinating to me. What does bird song mean to another bird, and how is the other bird able to interpret it? Why are human babies unable to speak when they are born? These types of questions have inspired my career as a PhD Zoology student at Washington State University Vancouver, where I study auditory processing in the brains of mice. While mice don’t sing like humans or song birds do, they do use sound to communicate with each other. By studying the sounds mice make and how their brains process those sounds, I am contributing towards a greater understanding of how brains process sounds that make up speech and music.

Just as birds sing to advertise how desirable they are to other birds, scientists must share what they have learned to people of the world. While scientists have been successfully distributing knowledge to other scientists for centuries through lectures, courses, and manuscripts, modern times have called for a more accessible and far-reaching song. In other words, it is critical for every current and future scientist to distribute their wealth of knowledge to the public in forums, public science talks, and publicly accessible documents.

The “Bikes, Brains, and Beer” seminar series is exactly the kind of platform local scientists need to distribute their “Songs of Science.” This series is particularly appreciated by beginning scientists and students, who are sought out to speak at Velo Cult. Being a fledgling scientist (also known as a graduate student), the “Bikes, Brains, and Beer” series was an unparalleled opportunity for me to practice and share my Song of Science with members of the public. Now it’s your turn to hear the song of a scientist, or get out of your lab nest and sing what you know!


Learn more about Elena’s melodic Velo Cult presentation below…

Music @ Velo: Mouse syllables and guitar!


And if you would like to know more about animal acoustic communication or talk to Elena about her research, she participates in OMSI Meet a Scientist events several times a year, as described in this story

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