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EVOLVING SOCIAL BEHAVIOR AND THE SOCIAL BRAIN
The vast majority of our research is focused on the structure and function of social behavior circuitry in the brain. Of particular interest are variations in structure and function that produce individual and species differences in behavior. These variations in the brain are not manifested through large-scale reorganizations of circuitry or major differences in anatomy, and in fact, the core components the brain's "social behavior network" are very similar across all vertebrate groups. Rather, the behavioral diversity that we study is produced primarily by variation in gene expression and the resulting effects on cellular response properties. Most of our work is conducted in songbird species that are socially diverse, including estrildid finch species that differ selectively in their species-typical group sizes, ranging from territorial pairs to large colonies. We also work with a variety of North American sparrow species that vary in their intensity of territoriality and their winter social structure. Our studies demonstrate that a variety of neuropeptide modulators are relevant to these species differences, as are dopamine and the steroidogenic enzyme aromatase. Visit our Research page for more information.