I am interested in the functional role of sensory and motor feedback in behavioral learning, specifically speech. Our lab uses songbirds as an animal model to understand the underlying speech circuits dedicated to learned vocalizations. I am currently trying to understand the motor feedback loop used for the comparison of intended vocalization with performed auditory feedback and the plasticity changes involved in a mismatch between sensory and motor integration.
My research is focused on the neural basis of song perception and mate preference in the Bengalese finch (Lonchura striata domestica). Male finches learn their song from a tutor during adolescence and use this song to attract potential females during adulthood. These females, who are unable to sing, express a preference for males that display certain attractive characteristics. I am currently investigating these “sexy” properties of song that influence female preference and how these preferences are encoded in the neurons of the auditory cortex. Our lab combines behavioral assays, electrophysiology, and immunohistochemistry techniques to eavesdrop on the neural activity of awake, and freely behaving birds. My goal is to provide new insights into how we self-evaluate and how understanding one’s own qualities shape the cognition involved in mate selection.