Neural Basis of Animal Behaviors
My lab seeks to understand the neural basis of complex spatial and acoustic behaviors in mammals. To do so, we choose to use one of the most spatially and acoustically sophisticated mammals that exist on our planet — the echolocating bat. For the study of spatial behavior and navigation, we build on a long history of behavioral investigations in flying bats, which provides a detailed behavioral description of the bat navigational strategies in complex three-dimensional (3D) environments. We combine this knowledge with our development of methods for monitoring and controlling neural activity in freely behaving and flying bats to investigate how mammalian brain circuits solve the complex problem of 3D spatial navigation.
We are also interested in the neural basis of social acoustic communication in mammals. We use bats because they are vocal experts and acquire their rich and diverse acoustic repertoire through learning. The bat acoustic capacities provide us with a unique opportunity to tackle core questions in neuroscience that are difficult to address in other, more traditional, model systems. These questions include the neural mechanisms of complex acoustic communication under natural social conditions and the development of learned language.