Project Overview

The influence of early social experience on the development of vocal learning and neural circuits.

Faculty Sponsor

Wan-chun Liu (




Early social or environmental factors are known to play an important role on shaping the epigenetic program and development of learning and memory. The early onset of social influence on the development of vocal learning and its neural circuits remain unclear. To address these questions, I plan to use songbirds (wild-type and transgenic mutants with vocal disorders) as animal models and combine the studies of behavioral manipulation and forebrain gene expression. For behavioral study, we will use an innovative automated tracing system to quantitatively monitor social interaction among juvenile songbirds; for gene expression study, we will manipulate social and environmental factors at different developmental stages and identify the differential gene expression pattern. The two students selected for this project will work with Professor Liu to plan a study, collect data, and summarize the results. This is an 8-week project. As an example of work that will form the basis of this project, please see Liu et al (2015): "Vocal matching and intensity of begging calls are associated with a forebrain song circuit in a generalist brood parasite" (Developmental Neurobiology).

Student Qualifications

•Required: Psych 150 or Neuro 170 or Biol 101 •Prefered: Biol 182

Number of Student Researchers

2 students

Project Length

8 weeks

Applications open on 01/15/2017 and close on 02/07/2017

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If you have questions, please contact Karyn Belanger (