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We examine electrophysiological activity in the brain alongside behavioral and molecular measures, to understand how electrical signals between neurons interact with other levels of organization.

Multielectrode array diagram of recording experiment, with electrodes in different connected parts of the songbird auditory forebrain.

In-situ hybridization showing electrode site 6 of D in the brain, with quantifiable silver grains (black dots) of hearing and electrophysiologically induced ZENK expression.

Multiunit electrophysiological activity recorded from six sites of the HVC of a singing zebra finch (high activities), and two sites outside of HVC (low activities).

In order to fully integrate electrophysiology with gene expression, anatomy, and behavior, it is important to record electrophysiological activity in awake birds that are behaving. In addition, it is necessary to record from multiple brain regions within the vocal communication system of the same animal.

To this end we designed and built a multi-electrode array recording set up for awake behaving songbirds. The electrodes are surgically implanted into the areas of the brain to be recorded. The electrodes are connected by light, thin wires to a motorized commutator. The motor senses the bird’s movements and moves the commutator accordingly, allowing the bird to move freely in its cage. A microphone records the bird’s vocalizations or audio playbacks and a digital video camera can also be linked with the set up to record behavior.