Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center


White, Stephanie A., Ph.D.


How social interactions influence the brain


  • Professor, Integrative Biology and Physiology
  • Tennenbaum Center for the Biology of Creativity
  • Member, ACCESS Program: Dept. of Molecular, Cell & Integrative Physiology
  • Neuroscience IDP
  • Brain Research Institute
  • Faculty, Molecular, Cellular, and Integrative Physiology IDP


Autism can be clinically diagnosed by two deficits: an inability to participate in joint attention, and poor language development with abnormal social use. The goal of the White laboratory is to understand the mechanisms of this disorder and to develop treatments to compensate for these deficits.

Vocal-learning in songbirds shares key aspects with human speech. In both songbirds and humans:

  • Vocal-learning happens during a critical developmental window
  • It occurs within discrete regions of the brain that are dedicated to the development and production of learned vocalizations
  • Social influences have a significant impact on vocal-learning.

The White laboratory uses songbirds for their unparalleled potential to reveal the basic neural mechanisms that underlie vocal learning. Manipulation of the pupil-tutor relationship is used to determine how social interactions impact learning. In addition, we use genetic interference strategies to functionally test the effects of over- or under-expression of molecules involved in learning in mammals, for their role in vocal learning under different rearing conditions.


  1. McGinty, EE, White, SA, Eisenberg, MD, Palmer, NR, Brown, CH, Saloner, BK et al.. US payment policy for medications to treat opioid use disorder: landscape and opportunities. Health Aff Sch. 2024;2 (3):qxae024. doi: 10.1093/haschl/qxae024. PubMed PMID:38756918 PubMed Central PMC10986242.
  2. Wright, K, DeCormier Plosky, W, Ahmed, HR, White, SA, Bierer, BE. First, do no harm: a global perspective on diversity and inclusion in clinical trials. Nat Rev Drug Discov. 2024; :. doi: 10.1038/d41573-024-00078-4. PubMed PMID:38720005 .
  3. White, SA, McGinty, EE, Origenes, AN, Vernick, JS. Effects of state opioid prescribing laws on rates of fatal crashes in the USA. Inj Prev. 2024; :. doi: 10.1136/ip-2023-045159. PubMed PMID:38719440 .
  4. Bierer, BE, White, SA. Ethical Considerations in Decentralized Clinical Trials. J Bioeth Inq. 2023;20 (4):711-718. doi: 10.1007/s11673-024-10341-3. PubMed PMID:38427177 .
  5. Owen, RV, Carr, HJ, Counter, C, Tingle, SJ, Thompson, ER, Manas, DM et al.. Multi-Centre UK Analysis of Simultaneous Pancreas and Kidney (SPK) Transplant in Recipients With Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. Transpl Int. 2023;36 :11792. doi: 10.3389/ti.2023.11792. PubMed PMID:38370534 PubMed Central PMC10869449.
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