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Research in Avian Behavior and Neurophysiology

  • Research Interests

    The behavior and neurophysiology of the avian song system

    Research in my laboratory focuses upon the neurobiology and behavior of vocal communication in passerine (= “song”) birds. As a group, songbirds exhibit a remarkably diverse set of behaviors for the learning, production, perception, and behavioral use of vocal communication signals. They share with humans the distinction of being one of the very few vertebrate groups to learn their adult vocalizations via auditory experience early in life.

    Projects in this area of research include purely behavioral studies (both field and lab), as well as histological, neurophysiological, and computational approaches.

    Songbirds also provide a powerful model for studying the neural bases for vertebrate vocal learning and communication in general. My research employs physiological, behavioral, and anatomical methods to examine the relationship between the design and function of the song neural system and the vocal behaviors that it subserves. 

    Our research focuses upon three specific questions: 

    • How are complex vocal repertoires represented within the auditory and motor systems of the songbird brain?
    • How do the left and right halves of the songbird brain coordinate their actions during the production of vocalizations?
    • Do species possessing song repertoires that are vastly different in size or complexity share similar neural mechanism for vocal communication?