We study the ultimate and proximate factors controlling flexibility in reproductive decisions. Of particular interest is the study of courtship effort and mate-choice and how the songbird brain integrates the ecological and social information that adaptively guides these decisions. We are also interested in the control of the timing of reproduction, reproductive effort, and life-history trade-offs.
Using songbirds as a study system, we take field and laboratory approaches to investigate the ecological cues regulating behavioral flexibility and the neural and endocrine integration of these cues. We use HPLC (high pressure liquid chromatography) for the measurement of central monoamines and immunocytochemistry and microscopy for quantifying neuropeptides and the expression of immediate early genes as markers of neural activity. We then link these measures to behavioral cues and responses in an effort to better understand the neurobiological control of reproductive decision-making.