Dr. Rod Suthers

Professor of Cellular and Integrative Physiology, Professor of Neural Science, and Adjunct Professor of Biology

I am interested in the neural basis of behavior, particularly the neuroethology of acoustic communication. My research is primarily focused on the physiology of song production in songbirds and parrots. These two groups of birds have very different vocal organs and vocal abilities yet, together with humans, they are almost unique among animals in having a complex vocal communication in which learning plays an important role. By understanding how these vocalizations are produced and their role in communication, we hope to gain an insight into the significance of song diversity, its cost and benefit to the bird and the motor constraints which may limit the acoustic or temporal complexity of song. The exceptional vocal abilities of these birds enable us to investigate a number of basic problems related to the development and neural control of behavior. Some of these issues which are currently being studied in my lab include: the development and coordination of the diverse motor patterns during vocal learning; the role of vocal practice, analogous to human infant babbling, and of critical developmental periods in song learning; the relationship between the production, perception and the behavioral significance of various song elements; the significance of functional neural lateralization in the control of behavior. A long-term goal of our research on avian vocal communication is to bridge the gap between its underlying neural mechanisms and its behavioral ecology.



Representative Publications:

  • Ohms VR, Beckers GJL, ten Cate C and Suthers RA: Vocal tract articulation revisited: the case of the monk parakeet. Journal of Experimental Biology, in press.
  • Suthers, Roderick A., Wild, J.M., Kaplan, Gisela. 2011. Mechanisms of song production in the Australian magpie. Journal of Comparative Physiology A. 197:45-59
  • Suthers, Roderick A. 2009. Vertebrate sound production. In: Encyclopedia of Animal Behavior. Michael Breed and Janice Moore, Eds.  Elsevier Ltd. In press.
  • Riede, Tobias and Roderick A. Suthers. 2009. Vocal tract motor patterns and resonance during constant frequency song: the white-throated sparrow. Journal of Comparative Physiology A . 195:183-192.  PMCID NIHMS  applied for.
  • Suthers, Roderick A. 2009. Signal production and amplification in birds. In: The New Encyclopedia of Neuroscience, Vol. 8, pp. 815-825. L. Squire (editor), Academic Press, Oxford
  • Kubke, M. F., Wild, J. M. and Suthers, R. 2008. Airway receptors in birds. In:  Airway Chemoreceptors in the Vertebrates: Structure, Evolution and Function eds. G. Zaccone E. Cutz D. Adriaensen C. Nurse and A. Mauceri), Science Publishers. Enfield, NH. pp.195-208.
  • Zollinger, Sue Anne, Tobias Riede and Roderick A. Suthers. 2008. Two-voice complexity from a single side of the syrinx in northern mockingbird Mimus polyglottos vocalizations. Journal of Experimental Biology 211:1978-1991. PMCID NIHMS67257
  • Jensen, K.K. and Roderick A. Suthers. 2008. Real-time compensation for formant changes by beak gape in a songbird. Second International Conference  on Acoustic Communication by Animals. Extended Abstracts. Corvalis, Oregon. pp 108-109..
  • Jensen, K.K., Sue Anne Zollinger, Sue Childress and Roderick A. Suthers. 2008.  Anatomy and vibration dynamics of the sound-producing medial labia in songbird syrinxes. Second International Conference  on Acoustic Communication by Animals. Extended Abstracts. Corvalis, Oregon. pp 106-107.
  • Suthers, Roderick A. and Sue Anne Zollinger. 2008. From brain to song: The vocal organ and vocal tract. In: Neuroscience of Birdsong. H. P. Zeigler and P. Marler, editors. Cambridge University Press. , Cambridge. pp 78-98
  • Suthers, Roderick A., Peter M. Narins, Wen-Yu Lin, Hans-Ulrich Schnitzler, Annette Denzinger, Chun-He Xu and Albert S. Feng. 2006. Voices of the dead: complex nonlinear vocal signals from the larynx of an ultrasonic frog. Journal of Experimental Biology. 209:4984-4993. Engel, Sophia, Roderick A. Suthers, Herbert Biebach and G. Henk Visser. 2006. Respiratory water loss during rest and flight in European Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris). Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology, Part A..145:423-423
  • Vallet, Eric, Roderick A. Suthers, Michel Kreutzer and Aurélie Tanvez. 2006. Bilateral motor skills in domestic canary song.  Acta Zoologica Sinica 52 (Supplement): 475-477.
  • Goller, Franz, Brenton Cooper and Roderick A. Suthers. 2006. Respiratory dynamics and syllable morphology in songbirds.  Acta Zoologica Sinica 52 (Supplement): 471-474.
  • Engel, Sophia, Roderick A. Suthers, Herbert Biebach, and G. Henk Visser. 2006. Respiratory water loss during rest and flight in European Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris). Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology, Part A., 145: 423-432.


December 2011- Received Fellow distinction from AAAS, world's largest scientific society.

  • NEWS
  • Microenvironment-induced downregulation of miR-193b drives ovarian cancer metastasis

    Apr 28th, 2015

    Anirban K Mitra, Assistant Professor of Medical and Molecular Genetics has recently published his research in Oncogene. His study links paracrine signals from the microenvironment to the regulation of a key miRNA - miR-193b - in ovarian cancer cells, which promotes metastatic colonization.

    New link between motor proteins and breast cancer

    Apr 21th, 2015

    Collaborative work between Claire Walczak (Medical Sciences) and Ritu Aneja (Georgia Tech) reveals that overexpression of the mitotic kinesin, HSET, promotes tumor progression.

    American Cancer Society awards Research Scholar Grant to Dr. Heather Hundley

    Apr 21th, 2015

    Heather A. Hundley, Assistant Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, has been awarded a $775,000 grant from the American Cancer Society to support her project “Mechanisms Regulating RNA Editing at Specific Sites in the Transcriptome.”


    Comparison of MAPK specificity across the ETS transcription factor family identifies a high-affinity ERK interaction required for ERG function in prostate cells

    Selvaraj N, Kedage V, Hollenhorst PC

    ERK signaling regulates the opposing roles of JUN family transcription factors at ETS/AP-1 sites and in cell migration

    Selvaraj N, Budka JA, Ferris MW, Plotnik JP, Hollenhorst PC

    Regulatory mechanisms that control mitotic kinesins

    Yount AL, Zong H, Walczak CE

  • Peter Hollenhorst, PhD

    Aug. 31, 4pm JH 009

    Assistant Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Medical Sciences Program,
    Indiana University Bloomington, IN

    Lindsey D. Mayo, PhD

    Sept. 14, 4pm JH 009

    Associate Professor of Pediatrics
    Associate Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Wells Center for Pediatric Research
    Indianapolis, IN

    Charles N. Landen Jr, MD

    Sept. 21, 4pm JH 009

    Associate Professor
    Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology
    University of Virginia Cancer Center

    Qianben Wang, PhD

    Sept. 28, 4pm JH 009

    Associate Professor
    Department of Molecular Virology, Immunology and Medical Genetics and the Comprehensive Cancer Center
    College of Medicine the Ohio State University

  • CME conference

    Ethical Decisions for End of Life Care

    Wednesday, Jul 8th

    Shawn Gerber, M.Div.
    BCC Director, Spiritual Care & Chaplaincy IU Health Bloomington
    Bloomington, IN

    Pediatric Trauma

    Friday, Jul 10th

    Yueh Chang Ho, MD
    Assistant Prof. of Radiology
    Indianapolis, IN

    Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

    Wednesday, Jul 15th

    Otto Wickstrom, MD
    IU Health Southern Indiana Physicians
    Orthopedics & Sports Medicine
    Bloomington, IN

    Personalized Medicine: Challenges to Patients & their Physicians

    Friday, Jul 24th

    Kenneth Cornetta, MD
    IU Dept. of Medical & Molecular Genetics

    The Increasing Complexity of Venous Thromboembolic Disease

    Friday, Jul 31st

    Kenneth Cornetta, MD
    David Hedrick, MD

    Indiana Hemophilia & Thrombosis Center
    Indianapolis, IN

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