• zebra finch pair
  • male zebra finch

Birdsong Research Group

Welcome to the FSU Birdsong Research Group website 

We and our students approach the stunning complexity of brain function with a multi-disciplinary approach that combines expertise in:

  • Mathematics and Biophysical Modeling
  • Electrophysiology and Pharmacology
  • Neuroanatomy and Behavior
  • Data Visualization and Statistics     

We study the brain of the zebra finch, a songbird, because it offers a unique opportunity to discover how the brain generates learning, memory, action, and perception. Advantages to the study of the zebra finch include:

  • Like humans, the brains of songbirds have been under selection pressure to process and produce complex species-specific patterns of vocal sounds. Birdsong learning directly parallels the learning of human speech - both are learned in early life by hearing, memorizing, and imitating the vocal sounds of an adult caregiver.  
  • The brain network that supports birdsong shows numerous parallels with the brain network that supports human speech - in both species a dedicated network links several higher (cognitive) brain regions in the service of learned vocalizations.  This network is absent in the brains of non-human primates and in the brains of avian species that do not learn to sing. 
  • Dynamic processes of learning, memory, action, and perception are embedded in the zebra finch song control network.  Our work is to elucidate these processes at single-neuron and population levels and then transform our understanding into the universal language of mathematics and computation. 

Our work is made possible by funding from the National Science Foundation (Division of Integrative Organismal Systems, Neural Systems) and support from the FSU College of Arts and Sciences, the FSU Departments of Psychology, Mathematics, and Statistics, and the FSU Program in Neuroscience.