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Alston's singing mice, a highly vocal rodent, native to the cloud forests of Central America engaged in a vocal interaction. A male mouse sings a song in response to the auditory input from a vocal partner, much like a conversation. This is a natural behavior that is robustly expressed even in the lab setting. We can breed them, maintain them in a colony, and are well amenable to a large suite of systems neuroscience techniques.  

Two singing mice engaged in a vocal interaction

Quantitative behavioral modeling


Using automated audio and video tracking in novel behavioral paradigms, we are testing whether vocalizations, while being innate, are modifiable by experience and social status. The video below is tracked using DANNCE: a 3D tracking software developed by Timothy Dunn and colleagues (Dunn et al 2021)

Sensorimotor computations during vocal interactions


Using chronic electrophysiology, pharmacological and optogenetic manipulations, we are exploring the algorithms and neural circuit implementations underlying sensorimotor computations

during natural vocal interactions

Neural circuit differences in closely-related species


Rodents show large divergence in vocal behaviors. For example, Singing mice and lab mice are separated by a ~24 million years of evolution. Despite the fact that the species are roughly same size, and that their gross brain structures are similar, there are key behavioral differences. Lab mice produce use short, variable ultrasonic vocalizations (USVs) for vocal communication, while singing mice produce both USVs and human-audible “songs”. Crucially, unlike singing mice, lab mice appears not to participate in vocal interactions. By tagging individual neurons with RNA barcodes and sequencing them in brain regions of interest (using MAPSeq), we are mapping brain-wide projection targets of motor and auditory cortex. This allows single-cell resolution circuit mapping with high-throughput across the two rodent species. 

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