Nature and Nurture in Vocal Learning
Research in my lab focuses on the general question of how experience acts on the nervous system to shape behavior. Our goal is to account for learning by understanding the sensory stimuli that drive change, how and where those stimuli are represented in patterns of neural activity, and how those patterns act to modify behavior. We hope both to reveal general learning mechanisms, and to understand how variations in those mechanisms give rise to individual differences in behavior. Hence, we are interested in how the nervous system changes over the course of development to give rise to 'critical periods' for learning and how innate variations between individuals interact with experience to give rise to differences in learned behaviors. Towards this end, we employ a variety of behavioral, neurophysiological and genetic approaches to investigate vocal learning in songbirds.