Nancy Day

Ph.D. 2011

Thesis Title:

Cortical circuit dynamics during vocal learning in a songbird

Current Position:

Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, Whitman College

Previous Position(s):

Postdoctoral Scholar, Department of Integrative Biology & Physiology, University of California, Los Angeles

Undergraduate Institution and Major/Degree:

Whitman College in Walla Walla, WA - Biology & Psychology

Major Advisor(s):

Teresa Nick, Ph.D.

Research Description:

Zebra finches, and other songbirds, are an ideal system for understanding vocal learning. Birdsong and human speech share several characteristics, including a developmental sensitive period and specialized brain areas devoted to vocalization. In the Nick Lab, I used longitudinal multi-unit recordings to study how activity in a cortical song nucleus, HVC, is developmentally regulated. I found that during vocal learning in juveniles, activity in HVC correlates with song song variability better than the actual features of song, and that activity in HVC cycles daily. These results led me to investigate how circuitry changes in HVC during development. To further explore how HVC may contribute to song learning, I record ensembles of single units simultaneously using 4-tetrode technology. Recording with these arrays provides valuable insights about how subsets of neurons (projection neurons, interneurons) within HVC may change their firing patterns during vocal development.

Courses Taken Beyond the Core Courses:

  • Psychology of Hearing
  • Biostatistics
  • Advanced Developmental Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Introduction to Matlab for Biomedical Engineers
  • Preparing Future Faculty
  • Neural Systems and Behavior, Woods Hole, MA - Summer 2009

Lab Rotations:

  • Teresa Nick
  • Jonathan Gewirtz
  • Scott Selleck

Committee Members:

  • Glenn Giesler - Chair
  • Mark Bee
  • Mark Masino
  • Teresa Nick - Advisor

Selected Publications:

  • Day NF, Nick TA. Rhythmic cortical neurons increase their oscillations and sculpt basal ganglia during motor learning. Dev Neurobiol. 2013;73(10):754-68.
  • Day NF, Terleski KL, Nykamp DQ, Nick TA. Directed functional connectivity matures with motor learning in a cortical pattern generator. J Neurophysiol. 2013;109(4):913-23. 
  • Day NF, Kerrigan SJ, Aoki N, Nick TA. Identification of single units in a forebrain network. J Neurophysiol. 2011;106:3205-15.
  • Day NF, Kinnischtzke AK, Adam M, Nick TA. Daily and developmental modulation of “premotor” activity in the birdsong system. Dev Neurobiol. 2009;69:796-810.
  • Day NF, Kinnischtzke AK, Adam M, Nick TA. Top-down regulation of plasticity in the birdsong system: "Premotor" activity in the nucleus HVC predicts song variability better than it predicts song features. J Neurophysiol. 2008;100(5):2956-65

Conferences Attended:

  • Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting - Fall 2005-2009
  • Birdsong Workshop - Summer 2007, 2008
  • International Congress for Neuroethology - Summer 2007

Awards and Honors:

  • Stark Award, 2009

Professional Memberships:

  • Society for Neuroscience
  • International Society of Neuroethology
  • Sigma Xi

Home Town:

  • Centennial, CO
Nancy Day