Finding a Voice in a Crowd

Marcela Fernandez-Peters, Visiting Assistant Professor in the Behavioral Neuroscience program, has been awarded the Faculty Research Grant/Healey Endowment Grant (FRG/HEG) offered under the University of Massachusetts Amherst Vice Chancellor for Research and Engagement internal granting program. Her proposed project entitled “Brain hormones and sound discrimination in the crowd” will examine whether estrogen in the brain facilitates sound discrimination under challenging conditions of background noise.

Fernandez-Peters will study how individual neurons in the auditory cortex of zebra finches discriminate song embedded in chorus noise in the presence of estrogen, drugs that inhibit the production of estrogen in the brain or a control substance. In addition, she will examine the effects of estrogen on song discrimination in noise at a behavioral level using an operant conditioning paradigm. This study will shed light on auditory perception under natural noisy conditions and how neurosteroids may modulate auditory scene analysis. In addition, this work could ultimately contribute to understand some of the underlying causes of progressive hearing decline observed at a central level in some menopausal women or aging adults.

FRG/HEG awards are made consonant with a philosophy of supporting the development of research and creative activities on campus. The goal of the awards is to promote excellence in research, including by increasing extramural sponsored research activity, fostering the dissemination of new research, or otherwise attracting recognition and funds for faculty research. The end result of the award, for example, may be the development of data to strengthen a larger extramural proposal or the publication of research in a peer-reviewed journal.