Lauren V. Riters
Professor, Department of Integrative Biology
Ph.D. Bowling Green State University
Neuroendocrine Regulation of Vocal Communication
Vocal communication in many animal species, including humans, plays a critical role in successful social interactions. Although in some animal models, such as songbirds, a growing body of literature exists on brain regions involved in vocal learning and production little is known about neurobiological mechanisms regulating the motivation to communicate. Social animals communicate at high levels, indicating that this behavior is highly motivated and rewarding. A major focus of our research is to examine involvement of motivation and reward neural systems in the regulation of vocal communication in songbirds. Another major focus of our research is on female responses to male songs. In songbirds, females choose mates based on variation in acoustic features of male song. Breeding condition females attend to and perceive differences in male song structure, and display motivated approach behaviors in response to certain songs, however little is known about neurobiological mechanisms regulating mate choice. A second goal of our research is to examine the neural basis of female song perception and differential responses to male song. In our research we combine detailed behavioral analyses with neuroscience techniques. Techniques used in the laboratory include behavioral observation in semi-natural outdoor aviaries, song recording and analysis, blood sampling, radioimmunoassays, immunocytochemistry, autoradiography, stereotaxic surgery, anterograde and retrograde neuroanatomical tract tracing, and basic histology techniques.
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