To examine how the brain encodes acoustic information, we use of a slice preparation of the avian auditory brainstem. Whole cell patch clamp methods allow us to study the physiological properties of auditory neurons and the synaptic pharmacology of the neuronal circuitry. We also examine the effects of deafness on the developing auditory system. Early deafness results in the neuronal death and atrophy. Somehow, auditory experience keeps these neurons healthy. We are attempting to identify the important activity-dependent signal(s) for cell survival in this system and determine the cellular mechanisms of their action. Also, as part of a collaborative project (with Johnson, Bertram and Wu labs), we examine how the brain codes a complex sequence of behavior (the bird's song) and the neural plasticity that occurs while this behavior is learned. Our lab uses a brain slice preparation of brain areas that are involved in the learning and production of birdsong. We examine the physiological properties of neurons in this circuit as we seek to discover the learning-related changes in these properties that play a role in song production.