sarah woolley lab

What bird brains can teach us about learning, perception and variability

News & Photos

May 2017: Female zebra finches need to hear song during development to show species-typical preferences for high-performance courtship songs and differential EGR1 expression to courtship and non-courtship song in the NCM.  Read more about it in our paper at the Proceedings of the Royal Society B:



April 2017: Nancy and Oliver’s paper is officially in press in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B so we went to watch some roller derby to celebrate!


March 2017: Helena, Nancy and Erin will each give a short talk about their work on songbirds at a Music and the Brain event this Saturday, March 11.  Each talk will be accompanied by a 5 minute performance by a student from the McGill Department of Music. More information is available here:

February 2017: Sarah will be co-chairing and speaking at a mini-symposium on female songbirds at this year’s Society for Neuroscience meeting.  The proposal, put together with Leslie Phillmore at Dalhousie University, was just accepted. Yay!



February 2017: Zengin-Toktas and Woolley is now published in PLoS One.  Here are a few of the 15,000 neurons that Yildiz imaged!


December 2016: Check out Sarah’s paper on fast-spiking interneurons and external pallidal neurons in the Journal of Neurophysiology!  You can see a preview on the J. Neurophys Facebook page:

November 2016: Another successful Society for Neuroscience meeting.  This year, Helena represented with her poster on how dopamine infusions can reverse female song preferences.  Helena is also giving a talk for the Biology Graduate Students Department day, you can learn all about neuromodulation of female preferences in just 3 minutes!


June 2016:  When Helena isn’t building computers, she’s reviewing books for the journal Science!  Check out her review of Donald Kroodsma’s book “Listening to a Continent Sing”.

May 2016: Graduation party 2016!  Nancy now has a Master’s degree AND she and Jon have a paper in PNAS, I think that’s why she’s the only person in focus.



March 2016: Oliver won best visual presentation for his poster at the MBSU undergraduate interdepartmental poster fair!




January 2016: Our first student lead paper is in press!  Hannah Schubloom’s beautiful masters thesis data, looking at how the kinds of interactions females have with their mates influences their song preferences and EGR1 expression will be out soon in Developmental Neurobiology.

October 2015: Woolley lab made it’s debut at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in Chicago.  Nancy’s poster on how developmental song exposure shapes female preferences was a rousing success!


January 2015: Lisbeth Van Ruijssevelt is visiting us from Anemie Van der Linden’s lab at the University of Antwerp.  She will perform some IEG studies to complement her fMRI work looking at neural responses to directed and undirected song.

October 2014: Sarah’s review paper with Mimi Kao on the role of cortical-basal ganglia circuits in the generation of vocal variability  is now available online.



May 2014: My first Master’s student is graduating. Congratulations, Hannah!




April 2014: Variability arises in the basal ganglia!  Woolley et al., 2014 is now published. Links to the paper and to the really nice preview by Marc Schmidt and Long Ding are now on the publications page. 

And here is a press release from McGill: