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 an 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.

Michael Turvey

Grad Student

Michael is a PhD candidate from the Psychology department primarily interested in predictive coding in an auditory context, using trained behavior. Specifically, he is investigating how expectation induced by behavioral training in the European starling affects representation at different levels in the auditory hierarchy.

Kai Chen

Grad Student

Kai is a PhD candidate in Bionengineering department, interested in the computational and behavioral characterization of birdsong in production and 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.

Trevor Supan McPherson

Grad Student

Trevor is a Neurosciences PhD student interested in how acoustic information combinatorially coded in songbird neuronal population activity, and how internal expectations and external inputs are integrated in the brain to give rise to perception.

Lauren Stanwicks

Grad Student

Lauren is a PhD student in the Neurosciences Graduate Program and is interested in error processing and sensory-motor feedback.

Emily Davis

Grad Student

Emily is a graduate student in the Linguistics Department whose research focuses on the evolutionary and cognitive roots of human language, specifically with regard to syntactic recursion and long-distance dependencies.

Katie Christman

Grad Student

Katie is a PhD student in the Psychology department studying the auditory, perceptual, and neural processing of echolocation in bottlenose dolphins.

Xavier Perez

Grad Student

Xavier is a Ph.D. student in the Electrical and Computer Engineering department with an emphasis in Medical Devices and Systems, studying birdsong vocalizations, neural signals, and behavior.

Jeffrey Xing

Grad Student

Jeffrey is a PhD student in the Psychology department studying songbird musicality and aesthetic preferences.

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