Currents


Nordeens awarded $1 million grant

University neurobiologists Kathy and Ernest Nordeen have received a five-year, $1,072,000 grant from the National Institutes of Mental Health to support their research on learning and memory. The work promises insights into how the brain's developing circuitry allows for learning and may also shed light on why learning slows and memory sometimes fails.

For more than a decade, the Nordeens, both professors in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Science, have been studying the zebra finch, a bird so tiny it would fit in the palm of a child's hand. As in people, zebra finches experience peak learning capacity during their youth; it's at this critical stage that the birds must hear and learn their song. By observing what happens to the bird's brain as it learns to sing, the Nordeens hope to identify those processes in the developing brain that foster learning.

In their lab, the Nordeens track the minute changes that take place in the brains of hatchlings as they grow. By analyzing the changes as the young birds hear their elders sing and then memorize and reproduce the zebra finch song themselves, the husband-and-wife team is actually mapping the brain's circuitry for learning and memory.

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Copyright 1997, University of Rochester
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Last updated 11-7-1997
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