Julie Miller, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Associate Professor of Neuroscience and Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences

Rm 423 Gould-Simpson

Research Interests:

Neurogenetic mechanisms underlying birdsong as a model for understanding vocal function and dysfunction

My laboratory studies neurogenetic mechanisms which underlie normal and abnormal motor speech using the zebra finch songbird. My particular focus is to investigate molecular and cellular pathways underlying vocal disorders associated with natural aging processes and neurological diseases including Parkinson’s Disease. To carry out these investigations, we use a combination of behavioral, genetic, biochemical and electrophysiological approaches that enable us to link mechanistic changes with the vocal output.  The goal is to promote a better understanding of the brain's role in vocalizations and long-term, develop drug and gene-based therapies targeted to the human brain to improve vocal function. 


Dr. Miller began her research career as a high school student in Albany, NY studying cytoskeletal proteins relevant to human burn injury at Albany Medical College followed by undergraduate research studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) investigating mechanisms for bacterial pathogenesis. Her first exposure to the field of neuroscience took place in the laboratory of Dr. Barbara Beltz at Wellesley College where she conducted her senior honors thesis research on neurogenesis in the developing lobster which resulted in co-authorship on two publications and motivated her passion for pursuing a graduate degree in Neuroscience. Following graduation, Dr. Miller became a pre-intramural research training award fellow in the Pain and Neurosensory Mechanisms Branch of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). While at the NIH, she worked in the laboratory of Dr. Maryann Ruda studying sex differences in molecular pain pathways and behavior using a rat model. She also helped to organize the first NIH conference on Gender and Pain that brought together researchers working in human subjects and animal models together to highlight research on biological sex differences. After NIH, she interned in the government division of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Washington, D.C. under Director Joanne Carney, attending and writing about legislative hearings in Congress on STEM, health, and technology. Realizing that she missed bench research, Dr. Miller came to the University of Arizona in 1999 to do her Ph.D. in Neuroscience. The focus of her Ph.D. research, under Dr. Richard Levine, was to characterize hormonal activation of locomotor circuits in the insect Manduca sexta using electrophysiological techniques. During her graduate studies, she was a NIH pre-doctoral training grant fellow in Motor Control Neurobiology under Director Dr. Doug Stuart. For her postdoctoral research, Dr. Miller joined the laboratory of Dr. Stephanie White in the Department of Integrative Biology & Physiology at the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) in 2005. While at UCLA, Dr. Miller was a NIH postdoctoral trainee in the Laboratory of Neuroendocrinology under Director Dr. Art Arnold and the Mental Retardation Research Center under Director Dr. Jean de Vellis.  Over her postdoctoral training and Research Scientist period in Dr. White’s laboratory, she used the zebra finch model to investigate genetic brain mechanisms important for vocal behavior.  During this time, she also developed an interest in examining brain mechanisms underlying voice and speech problems vocal in Parkinson's Disease.  In January of 2014, Dr. Miller returned to the University of Arizona as an Assistant Professor of Neuroscience and Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences.

 Laboratory Publications can be viewed at: https://julieemiller.lab.arizona.edu/content/publications-abstracts