Current research areas

in the laboratory

Research in the lab takes an integrative, systems-level approach to understanding the neural mechanisms that govern the sensory, perceptual, and cognitive processing of acoustic communication signals and real-world sounds. Our primary focus is on the elaborate vocal communication system of the European starling, a species of songbird.

Neural Mechanisms

of Decision Processes

Female mate-choice in songbirds provides and excellent context to study the specific neural mechanisms of decision processes involving natural stimuli. The lab has developed a novel procedure for assaying female song preference that permits extracellular electrophysiology in awake behaving songbirds. We are exploring a number of behavioral manipulations that target more specific acoustic features of male songs which drive female choice

The lab uses a variety of behavioral techniques to examine the statistical organization of spectral and temporal song at multiple acoustic levels. We want to know how such information constrains and biases acoustic pattern perception, attention, and memory mechanisms. These studies are fueled in part by our recent demonstration that songbirds can learn very complex temporal patterns described by grammars thought to be uniquely human.

Behavioral Mechanisms

of Auditory Perception and Cognition

Representational Coding

of Auditory Objects

We are studying multiple populations of neurons in the songbird brain, in areas analogous to mammalian auditory cortex, whose responses are directly linked to behaviorally relevant variation among conspecific songs. Current studies in the lab investigate the neural mechanisms that give rise to these representations across the auditory forebrain. We are interested in fundamental questions of stimulus coding and receptive field organization, the transformation of information across brain regions, and the role of network level activity in shaping the brain's responses to natural communication signals. Some of this work is carried out in collaboration with physicists at UCSD and the Salk Institute.


Current lab members

Tim Gentner

Primary Investigator

Tim Gentner is the PI of the lab. He has been running Gentner Lab since 2006.

Brad Theilman

Grad Student

Brad is a PhD student in the Neuroscience Graduate Program studying the structure of neural population activity using ideas from Algebraic Topology.

Marvin Thielk

Grad Student

Marvin is a PhD student in neuroscience with an emphasis on computational neuroscience, who uses machine learning techniques to solve long standing problems in the field of auditory and perceptual neuroscience.

Tim Sainburg

Grad Student

Tim is a PhD student in the Psychology department and Anthropogeny specialization, studying sequence learning, context, and neural representations of perceptual space.

Michael Turvey

Grad Student

Michael is a PhD student in the Psychology department studying abstract concept learning and neural circuits in birdsong.

Nasim Vahidi

Grad Student

Nasim is a PhD student in Electrical and Computer Engineering studying neural coding and receptive fields of birdsong.

Sasen Cain

Grad Student

Sasen is a PhD candidate in Psychology, studying auditory and visual texture statistics representations in neural signals and behavior.

Kai Chen

Grad Student

Kai is a PhD student in the Bioengineering department, interested in neurobiological characterization of birdsong production and auditory perception.

Srihita Rudraraju

Grad Student

Srihita is a Master's student in Bio Engineering studying neural representations of birdsong.

Anna Mai

Grad Student

Anna is a PhD student in the Linguistics department studying formal phonology and the neural representation of speech sounds.

Daril Brown II

Grad Student

Daril is a PhD student in Electrical Engineering studying Brain Machine interfacing.

Darvesh Gorhe

Undergraduate Student

Darvesh is an undergraduate majoring in Physiology & Neuroscience and minoring in Linguistics. His interest in the intersection between language, the brain, and music led him to aptly choose Gentner Lab during his time as an undergraduate.

Former lab members

Zeke Arneodo


Justin Kiggins

Grad Student

Krista Perks

Grad Student

Leif Gibb

Grad Student

Jason Thompson

Grad Student

James Jeanne

Grad Student

Micah Bregman

Grad Student

Emily Caporello

Grad Student

Dan Knudsen

Grad Student

Rebecca Calisa


Andrei Kozlov

Research Scientist

Jordan Commins

Grad Student

Sean Coffinger

Grad Student


See a full list of publications on Google Scholar