We seek to understand how structural and biochemical changes
within the central nervous system regulate behavior. One effective method
for investigating this topic is the exploitation of naturally occurring
differences in behaviors. We study courtship and copulatory displays because
they are stereotyped, sexually differentiated, and in many species displayed
seasonally. Therefore, we can evaluate mechanisms regulating behaviors
within a sex in and out of the breeding season, as well as between the two
sexes. We focus on
factors involved both in organizing critical regions of the brain,
spinal cord and muscles during development, as well as those that confer
varying levels of plasticity in adulthood. Members of my lab are
working with two model systems, songbirds and anole lizards.
These species have the potential to not only increase
understanding of the evolution of the processes regulating behavioral
differences, which have commonly been studied in mammals, but also to
address the ubiquity of the mechanisms employed in diverse situations.
currently range from molecular to behavioral, with emphases also on
measurements of steroid hormones, their receptors and metabolizing enzymes,
and the morphology of anatomical structures related to reproduction.
Integrating work across multiple levels of analysis and appreciating the
differences and similarities across diverse vertebrate systems facilitates
our understanding of factors controlling nervous system structure and