One of the most important functions of the nervous system is to store information and produce adaptive behaviors
that reflect prior experience. To uncover circuits and cellular mechanisms that can foster rapid and accurate learning,
we use molecular, pharmacological, anatomical and behavioral approaches to investigate neural mechanisms underlying
vocal learning and plasticity in songbirds. Like humans, songbirds exhibit strong innate preferences for reproducing
vocalizations typical of their own species, and learning occurs quickly if these stimuli are heard at an appropriate age.
Recent work indicates that some of the same neural pathways,
transmitter systems, and biochemical cascades linked
generally to reinforcement-based learning also are critical for vocal
learning. One aspect of our work aims to
characterize biochemical and synaptic changes related to the encoding of
auditory memories used as templates for vocal
imitation. Currently, several studies are focused on elucidating the
role of basal ganglia pathways and dopaminergic neuromodulatory systems
on establishing song-related memories that will later serve as the
target for vocal development. We also employ the avian song system as a
model in which to study adaptive sensorimotor plasticity. The
broad aim of our research program is to uncover biological processes
that underlie learning and regulate its efficiency.
- Nordeen, K.W., and E.J. Nordeen (2010) Deafening-induced vocal deterioration in adult songbirds is reversed by disrupting a basal ganglia-forebrain circuit. J. Neurosci, 30:7392-400.
- Nordeen, E.J., D. Holtzman, K.W. Nordeen (2009) Increased Fos expression among midbrain dopaminergic cell groups during
birdsong tutoring. Eur. J Neurosci. 30: 662-670.
- Nordeen, K.W. and E.J. Nordeen (2008) Circuits and Cellular Mechanisms of Sensory Acquisition. In: The
Neuroscience of Birdsong. P. Hzeigler and P. Marler (Eds), Cambridge University Press, pp. 256-270.
- Hein, A., A. Sridharan, K.W. Nordeen, and E.J. Nordeen (2007) Characterization of cell types expressing CaMKII within the avian
basal ganglia. Brain Research, 1155: 125-133.
- Scott, L., E.J. Nordeen, and K.W. Nordeen (2007) lMAN lesions prevent song degradation after deafening without reducing HVC
neuron addition. Dev. Neurobiol, 67: 1407-18.
- Singh, T.D., E.J. Nordeen, & K.W. Nordeen (2005). Song tutoring triggers
CaMKII phosphorylation within a specialized portion of the avian basal ganglia. J Neurobiol, 65(2):
- Heinrich, J.E., K.W. Nordeen, & E.J. Nordeen (2005). Dissociation
between extension of the sensitive period for avian vocal learning and the timing of dendritic spine loss in the
lateral magnocellular nucleus of the anterior nidopallium. Neurobiol. Learning and Memory, 83:
- Scott, L., T.D. Singh, E.J. Nordeen, & K.W. Nordeen (2004). Developmental
patterns of NMDAR expression within the song system do not recur during adult vocal plasticity in zebra
finches. J. Neurobiol, 58, 442-54.
- Nordeen, K.W. & E.J. Nordeen (2004). Synaptic and molecular mechanisms
regulating plasticity during early learning. Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci., 1016, 416-437.
- Heinrich, J.E., Singh, T.D., Nordeen, K.W., & Nordeen, E.J. (2003). NR2B
downregulation in a forebrain region required for avian vocal learning is not sufficient to close the sensitive
period for song learning. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 79, 99-108.
- Singh, T.D., Heinrich, J.E., Wissman, A. Brenowitz, E.A., Nordeen, E.J. & K.W Nordeen (2003).
Seasonal regulation of NMDA receptor NR2B mRNA in the adult canary song
system. J. Neurobiol., 54, 593-603.
- Heinrich, J.E., Singh, T.D., Sohrabji, F., Nordeen, K.W., & Nordeen, E.J. (2002).
Developmental and hormonal regulation of NR2A mRNA in forebrain regions controlling
avian vocal learning. Journal of Neurobiology, 51, 149-159.
- Scott, L., Nordeen, E.J., & Nordeen, K.W. (2000). The relationship between rates
of HVc neuron addition and vocal plasticity in adult songbirds. Journal of Neurobiology, 43,
- Singh, T.D., Basham, M.E., Nordeen, E.J., & Nordeen, K.W. (2000). Early sensory
and hormonal experience modulate age-related changes in NR2B mRNA within a forebrain region controlling avian
vocal learning. Journal of Neurobiology, 44, 82-94.
- Basham, M.E., Sohrabji, F., Singh, T.D., Nordeen, E.J., & Nordeen, K.W. (1999).
Developmental regulation of NMDA receptor 2b subunit mRNA and ifenprodil binding in
the zebra finch anterior forebrain. Journal of Neurobiology, 39, 155-167.
- Ward, B., Nordeen, K.W., & Nordeen, E.J. (1998). Individual variation in neuron
number predicts differences in the propensity for avian vocal imitation. Proceedings of the National
Academy of Sciences, 95, 1277-1282.
- Nordeen, K.W., & Nordeen, E.J. (1997). Anatomical and synaptic substrates for
avian song learning. Journal of Neurobiology, 33, 532-548.
- Aamodt, S.M., Nordeen, E.J., & Nordeen, K.W. (1996). Blockade of NMDA receptors during song model
exposure impairs song development in juvenile Zebra finches. Learning and Memory, 65, 91-98.
- Basham, M.E., Nordeen, E.J., & Nordeen, K.W. (1996). Blockade of NMDA receptors
in the anterior forebrain impairs sensory acquisition in the Zebra finch. Neurobiology of Learning
and Memory, 66, 295-304.
- Aamodt, S.M., Nordeen, E.J., & Nordeen, K.W. (1995). Early isolation from conspecific song does not
affect the normal developmental decline of NMDA receptor binding in an avian song nucleus. Journal of
Neurobiology, 27, 76-84.
- Nordeen, K.W., & Nordeen, E.J. (1992). Auditory feedback is necessary for the maintenance of stereotyped
song in adult Zebra finches. Behavioral and Neural Biology, 57, 58-66.
- Nordeen, E.J., & Nordeen, K.W. (1990). Neurogenesis and sensitive periods in avian vocal learning.
Trends in Neurosciences, 13, 31-36.
Ernest J. Nordeen, Professor, Dept Brain & Cognitive Sciences, U. Rochester
For the past 25 years, my research has been supported by grants from the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Science Foundation. Current funding support also comes from the Schmitt Foundation, and the Whitehall Foundation.
BCS/NSC 203: Laboratory in Neurobiology
Former Graduate Students and Postdocs
Dr. Farida Sohrabji, Professor, Texas A&M
Dr. Sandra Aamodt, Senior Editor, Nature Neuroscience
Dr. Michael Burek, Merck Pharmeceuticals
Dr. Mark Basham, Asst Professor, Metropolitan State College of Denver
Dr. Bonnie Ward, Post-doc, Wellesley College
Dr. Luisa Scott, Post-doc, U. of Texas, Austin
Dr. Julie Heinrich, Post-doc, U. Notre Dame
Marla Bruns (Master's student), MD/PhD program, Syracuse U.
Dr. Tryambak Singh (Postdoc), Assoc. Professor, Baranas Hindu U.