The opportunities and challenges of large-scale molecular approaches to songbird neurobiology

C. V. Mello, D. F. Clayton

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


High-throughput methods for analyzing genome structure and function are having a large impact in songbird neurobiology. Methods include genome sequencing and annotation, comparative genomics, DNA microarrays and transcriptomics, and the development of a brain atlas of gene expression. Key emerging findings include the identification of complex transcriptional programs active during singing, the robust brain expression of non-coding RNAs, evidence of profound variations in gene expression across brain regions, and the identification of molecular specializations within song production and learning circuits. Current challenges include the statistical analysis of large datasets, effective genome curations, the efficient localization of gene expression changes to specific neuronal circuits and cells, and the dissection of behavioral and environmental factors that influence brain gene expression. The field requires efficient methods for comparisons with organisms like chicken, which offer important anatomical, functional and behavioral contrasts. As sequencing costs plummet, opportunities emerge for comparative approaches that may help reveal evolutionary transitions contributing to vocal learning, social behavior and other properties that make songbirds such compelling research subjects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)70-76
Number of pages7
JournalNeuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
StatePublished - Mar 1 2015


  • Avian models
  • Birdsong
  • Gene expression
  • Genomics
  • High-throughput
  • Microarrays
  • Networks
  • Songbirds
  • Transcriptomics
  • Vocal learning
  • Zebra finch

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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