Jagmeet S Kanwal


Associate Professor


General profile


+1 202-687-1305




WP09 Research Building


Dr. Kanwal studies the functional organization of the brain and neural coding of sensory information. Through his multidisciplinary research, he is trying to understand how single neurons and neural networks are optimized to manage large amounts of information in an efficient manner. He is especially interested in how the brain allows us to communicate through speech, music and nonverbal sounds. His laboratory is one of the few in the country that uses bats as a model system to decipher the neural basis of audiovocal communication. His research is providing new insights into the evolutionary origins of speech, music and language. Using single neuron recordings, he discovered hemispheric asymmetry in the primary auditory cortex and a representation of communication sounds in the frontal cortex. This parallels the lateralization and organization of speech in the human cerebral cortex. His long term interests are to understand the neural mechanisms contributing to this asymmetry and the processing of communication sounds in the cerebral cortex and amygdala. His laboratory recently demonstrated that communication sounds induce gamma oscillations in cortical neurons and that the neuropeptides, oxytocin and vasopressin, and nitric oxide are present within auditory nuclei in the brainstem and forebrain. These findings emphasizes the importance of sounds for social interactions and their ability to influence our emotional and physiological states and vocal behavior. His laboratory group has also used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in humans to examine the cortical activation resulting from auditory imagery, music and nonverbal sounds and how music can modify the representation of non-auditory activity triggered by an arithmetic task. Dr. Kanwal is the primary editor of a new book entitled, “Behavior and Neurodynamics for Auditory Communication” published by Cambridge University Press. His laboratory’s research will improve our understanding of the neural mechanisms underlying dyslexia, aphasias, pure word deafness, and autism spectrum disorders, and could lead to new designs for neural prosthetic devices for the hearing impaired.


  • Ph.D. (1986) Louisiana State University, Physiology and Zoology


  • Hindi (speak, read, write)