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Research in the SNL seeks to develop as comprehensive understanding of songbird communication by studying behaviour and the neural systems controlling behaviour. Songbirds, along with humans, are one of only six animal groups (including bats, parrots, hummingbirds, and cetaceous whales and dolphins) that are known to exhibit vocal learning. Furthermore, songbirds possess a highly-evolved network of interconnected brain regions controlling vocal learning, vocal perception and vocal production. As such, songbirds allow researchers a unique opportunity to directly study vocal communication at the interface between brain and behaviour. Current research focuses on vocal communication in one particular group of songbirds, the chickadees (e.g., Black-capped, Boreal, Carolina, Chestnut-backed, and Mountain chickadees).

Research is currently aimed at understanding the cognitive, perceptual, evolutionary, developmental, and neural bases underlying chickadees’ perception of the acoustic (vocal) categories (i.e., note-types, call types) contained in their calls and songs, as a first step towards a comprehensive understanding songbird acoustic communication. In order to begin to understand vocal category perception in chickadees, researchers in the SNL use a variety of experimental techniques including bioacoustic analyses and operant conditioning experiments and in vivo electrophysiology and anatomy to determine how several species of chickadees perceive the categories in their vocalizations.


  • Sound Synthesis and Analysis Facility: The lab uses SIGNAL, Syntana, and other sound analysis software for bioacoustic analysis, signal manipulation, and synthetic signal processing.


Financial support for research program

Financial support for students and postdoctoral fellows