Joined the Department in 2004
- A.B., 1989, Occidental College, Biology.
- M.S., 1992, University of Maine, Zoology.
- Ph.D., 1998, UCLA, Physiological Science.
- Postdoctoral research: UCLA.
Faculty of Neuroscience
Texas A&M Institute for Neuroscience (TAMIN)
Faculty of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Evolution and Neurobiology of Communication
Communication is an essential part of sociality, and an animal’s vocal communications provide a window into their cognitive capabilities, motivations, and behavioral ecology. Communication is also a important model of sensorimotor neurobiology because vocalizations are the motor output of a sophisticated suite of brain pathways that integrate across multiple sensory modalities and time scales. Vocal communication systems are highly diverse because they have been shaped by intense natural and sexual selection. Studying the evolution of communication networks in the brain provides important insight into how environment and ecology molded the social brain.
Our lab studies bats because of their biosonar capabilities and their unusually broad repertoire of communication calls and songs.
Echolocation provides an exciting model system for exploring how multiple brain pathways interact to control behavior on a millisecond time scale. Our neural studies investigate the neurocircuits that guide delicate changes in sonar pulse acoustics. Our behavioral studies of bats echolocating in groups has shed light on how they coordinate their sonar systems to minimize interference with one another. This research has direct relevance to man-made sonar and wireless communications systems.
Singing by bats offers exiting new opportunities to young investigators to explore how mammals and birds converged upon a similar behavior via different neural mechanisms. Identifying and characterizing the functional neurocircuitry of the bat’s song production network is a major component of our research.
Graduate student opportunities. Students interested in pursuing the neuroethology of communication are encouraged to apply to our graduate training programs in Biology, Neuroscience or Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Contact Dr. Smotherman directly for more information.
- Adams, AM, Davis, K, Smotherman, M. Suppression of emission rates improves sonar performance by flying bats. Sci Rep. 2017;7 :41641. doi: 10.1038/srep41641. PubMed PMID:28139707 PubMed Central PMC5282581.
- Stading, BR, Osorio, JE, Velasco-Villa, A, Smotherman, M, Kingstad-Bakke, B, Rocke, TE et al.. Infectivity of attenuated poxvirus vaccine vectors and immunogenicity of a raccoonpox vectored rabies vaccine in the Brazilian Free-tailed bat (Tadarida brasiliensis). Vaccine. 2016;34 (44):5352-5358. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2016.08.088. PubMed PMID:27650872 PubMed Central PMC5543807.
- Smotherman, M, Knörnschild, M, Smarsh, G, Bohn, K. The origins and diversity of bat songs. J. Comp. Physiol. A Neuroethol. Sens. Neural. Behav. Physiol. 2016;202 (8):535-54. doi: 10.1007/s00359-016-1105-0. PubMed PMID:27350360 .
- Fernandez-Lima, FA, Debord, JD, Schweikert, EA, Della-Negra, S, Kellersberger, KA, Smotherman, M et al.. Surface characterization of biological nanodomains using NP-ToF-SIMS. Surf Interface Anal. 2013;45 (1):. doi: 10.1002/sia.4901. PubMed PMID:24163489 PubMed Central PMC3808454.
- Jarvis, J, Jackson, W, Smotherman, M. Groups of bats improve sonar efficiency through mutual suppression of pulse emissions. Front Physiol. 2013;4 :140. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2013.00140. PubMed PMID:23781208 PubMed Central PMC3680708.
- Tressler, J, Schwartz, C, Wellman, P, Hughes, S, Smotherman, M. Regulation of bat echolocation pulse acoustics by striatal dopamine. J. Exp. Biol. 2011;214 (Pt 19):3238-47. doi: 10.1242/jeb.058149. PubMed PMID:21900471 PubMed Central PMC3168377.
- Schwartz, CP, Smotherman, MS. Mapping vocalization-related immediate early gene expression in echolocating bats. Behav. Brain Res. 2011;224 (2):358-68. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2011.06.023. PubMed PMID:21726584 PubMed Central PMC3159747.
- Jarvis, J, Bohn, KM, Tressler, J, Smotherman, M. A mechanism for antiphonal echolocation by Free-tailed bats. Anim Behav. 2010;79 (4):787-796. doi: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2010.01.004. PubMed PMID:20419063 PubMed Central PMC2858338.
- Bohn, KM, Schmidt-French, B, Schwartz, C, Smotherman, M, Pollak, GD. Versatility and stereotypy of free-tailed bat songs. PLoS ONE. 2009;4 (8):e6746. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0006746. PubMed PMID:19707550 PubMed Central PMC2727915.
- Bohn, KM, Smarsh, GS, and M. Smotherman (2013) Social Context Evokes Rapid Changes in Bat Song Syntax. Animal Behaviour, 85:1485-1491.