My research involves the integration between mechanism and function in animal behavior, with an emphasis on acoustic communication in birds and frogs. The principal current focus is on the song control system in the brains of songbirds. I emphasize a comparative, evolutionary approach to this system, and combine behavioral studies in the field with laboratory techniques in neuroendocrinology, neuroanatomy, molecular biology, and signal analysis. I am currently pursuing three major topics of study in the song system. One concerns the physiological and molecular mechanisms, and the behavioral consequences, of seasonal plasticity observed in the morphology of song regions of the brain. A second topic concerns the recruitment of new neurons to a song nucleus in the forebrain of adult birds, studied from the perspective of its physiological regulation and the influence of environmental factors. The third topic relates to the observation that neurons in song control nuclei receive input from auditory regions, and respond selectively to the presentation of conspecific song. I am investigating the role of song nuclei in the behavioral recognition of conspecific song in the contexts of mate choice and territorial defense.
Eliot Brenowitz received his Ph.D. in 1982 from Cornell University, where his dissertation was on environmental influences on song communication in red-winged blackbirds. He did postdoctoral research at UCLA in the laboratory of Arthur Arnold, looking at the neuroendocrine basis of song duetting behavior in several species of tropical birds. Brenowitz joined the faculty at UW in 1987 and holds appointments as professor in the departments of Biology and Psychology and the Graduate Program in Neurobiology and Behavior. He is also a member of the Virginia Merrill Bloedel Hearing Research Center. Brenowitz has served as an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow and a Bloedel Hearing Research Scholar. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and of the Animal Behavior Society, and a recipient of a Research Scientist Development Award from the National Institutes of Health.