Research in the Healey lab is focused on the neural basis of natural behavior. We study songbirds as our research model for understanding vocal learning and brain plasticity. Over 50 years of intensive study of songbird behavior and brain function have provided a detailed roadmap of the neural circuits that are involved in singing, song learning, and audition (see diagram below). Our lab is interested in how neural circuits for vocal communication are modulated by the actions of local neurochemicals. For example, changing levels of brain estrogens can alter the pattern or 'tone' of neural circuit activity, enabling many flexible outputs from the same circuit. We think this modulation allows interconnected forebrain circuits to subserve a wide variety of complex behaviors, like singing, song learning, and song memory.