Several features of the natural vocal imitation behavior of birds make them invaluable for understanding, specifically, the brain mechanisms of vocal learning, and generally, learned behavior. My lab focuses on how the cells of a songbird neural system function on a molecular level so that a behaviorally complex trait can be learned and maintained. We use zebra finch songbirds to identify some of the single gene constituents of gene regulatory networks and epigenetic modifications that are associated with the maturation and maintenance of the songbird neural system for vocal-motor-control. We also investigate the influence of social experience on such expression. This research involves manipulating social experience, the production of self-generated singing behavior in birds, and mapping gene expression within the songbird neural system for vocal control at different developmental stages. The objective of this study is to reveal the molecular structure and functions of the brain cells that change in response to experience with a sensory model and experience vocalizing. Investigating the molecular mechanisms underlying learned vocal communication in this manner is relevant not only for understanding the neural basis of learned behavior but also for understanding the mechanisms of evolution that shape complex traits.