Institutions: McGill University, Department of Biology
Research interests: Neurophysiology; Sound perception; Vocal learning; Songbird
Sarah Woolley’s research focuses on the neural mechanisms underlying song production and perception in songbirds. The process of song learning shares a number of parallels with speech learning in humans, including a dependence on hearing appropriate song models early in development and a reliance on auditory feedback during a period of sensorimotor practice. The learned songs are used in communication with other birds and serve as a primary means to recognize particular individuals. Using a combination of electrophysiology, behavioral analysis, molecular biology and computational methods, Sarah Woolley studies how social interactions can influence neural variability in basal ganglia circuits during song production in males as well as how such interactions affect song perception, including individual recognition and mate selection, in females.