Bradley Colquitt

Brad Colquitt

Assistant Professor of MCD Biology

B.S. Rice University, Houston, TX

Ph.D. University of California, San Francisco

Postdoctorate, University of California, San Francisco


Nervous systems generate an astonishing diversity of animal behaviors. A fundamental challenge in neuroscience is to understand how the nervous system, which can have a radically different structure in different species, generates this behavioral diversity, both within an individual animal's lifetime and over evolutionary time. A critical aspect of this endeavor is to understand how behavior develops and evolves at the level of individual types of cells and their connections. The overarching framework for our lab is that behavioral evolution is a process of molecular and cellular evolution, and that to understand the emergence of behavioral diversity, we need to understand the mechanisms that drive cellular diversification.

Our lab studies the neural circuitry that controls the production and learning of birdsong, one of the most spectacular (and beloved) animal behaviors. This model—a rich, learned vocalization with well-defined neural circuitry shared by thousands of songbird species—is a powerful framework through which to understand the development and evolution of behavioral diversity. Recent advances in molecular biology have expanded our ability to read and write biological information with unprecedented resolution. Our lab uses these tools, combined with imaging and quantitative analysis of birdsong, to better understand how gene regulatory networks build birdsong neural circuitry during development and ultimately how modifications to these networks contributed to the evolution of birdsong.

The lab’s research is organized around three questions:
1) What gene regulatory processes coordinate the development of the birdsong neural circuit?
2) How do similar neuron types (e.g. pre-motor neurons) develop from different parts of the avian brain?
3) How is song diversity across species represented at the level of neurons and neural circuits?

Please follow this link to find our publications in the National Library of Medicine's PubMed database.