Collaborative Research: Neural Mechanisms For A Cooperative Behavior

Project: Research project

Project Details


How do animals, including humans, cooperate? Cooperative behaviors often involve extraordinary precision for success. Consider, for example, the level of coordination and control that is necessary for an Olympic couples'' figure skating. The goal of the project is to understand how the brains of two or more individual animals integrate sensory cues to modulate an animal''s motor systems to achieve these sorts of remarkable performances. The investigators will study a well-suited animal model system, the plain-tailed wren, which produces a cooperative duet song that is unusually amenable to behavioral and neurophysiological experiments. The investigators will travel to the natural habitats of these birds in the Andes Mountains and work with undergraduates and under-represented students from the United States and Ecuador. These students will be trained to conduct the technically complex experiments, which involve the analysis of brain activity of single neurons. The project will also develop research infrastructure in Ecuador, which will be used in teaching efforts for students from the United States and other countries, and in monitoring of animal activity in unique Andean habitats. These experiments will elucidate the specific neural mechanisms and computations that are used in the coordination of vocal behavior between individual wrens. Because birds and other vertebrate animals (including humans) use nearly identical neural structures and mechanisms, these data will have implications that are relevant across animal species. The work will also include the construction of mathematical models that capture the findings, which will facilitate the translation of insights from the brains of these unique animals to the study of other species and into engineering principles and applications.
Effective start/end date7/1/123/31/15


  • National Science Foundation


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