Share This

Osceola Whitney

Faculty and Staff Profiles

Osceola Whitney

Assistant Professor

CDI 3.376 (office) | CDI 3.211 (lab)
Center for Discovery and Innovation
Phone Number: 
212-650-5681 (office)
Secondary Phone: 
212-650-7000 x49039 (lab)
Personal Website:
Osceola Whitney

Dr. Whitney uses molecular, anatomical, and behavioral techniques to investigate how and why birds sing. His current research focuses on the maturation and maintenance of sensory and motor circuits for valuable mechanistic insight into how experience shapes the brain.


Postdoctoral Fellowship in Biology, New Mexico State University, 2012
Postdoctoral Fellowship in Neurobiology, Duke University Medical Center, 2004
Ph.D. in Neuroscience, Florida State University, 2003
M.S. in Psychology, Florida A&M University, 1998
B.S. in Psychology, Lincoln University, PA 1995

Courses Taught

Biology 46000 - Animal Behavior
Biology A6000 - Animal Behavior

Research Interests

Avian taxa are among the few animal groups other than humans that have explicit vocal learning abilities, therefore Dr. Whitney studies the brain mechanisms of learned vocal behavior in birds. Several features of the natural vocal imitation behavior of birds make them invaluable for understanding the brain mechanisms of learned behavior. His research 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. His current work uses zebra finch songbirds to identify some of the single gene constituents, gene regulatory networks, and epigenetic modifications that are associated with the maturation and maintenance of the songbird neural system for vocal-motor-control. The objectives of his research are to reveal the molecular activity and functions of the motor brain cells that change in response to experience.


Selected Publications

Whitney O, et al. Differential FoxP2 and FoxP1 expression in a vocal learning nucleus of the developing budgerigar. Dev Neurobiol. 2015 75(7):778-90. doi: 10.1002/dneu.22247. PMID: 25407828

Hara E, et al. Neural FoxP2 and FoxP1 expression in the budgerigar, an avian species with adult vocal learning. Behav Brain Res. 2015 283:22-9. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2015.01.017. PMID: 25601574

Whitney O, et al. Core and region-enriched networks of behaviorally regulated genes and the singing genome. Science. 2014 346(6215):1256780. doi: 10.1126/science.1256780. PMID: 25504732

Pfenning AR, et al. Convergent transcriptional specializations in the brains of humans and song-learning birds. Science. 2014 346(6215):1256846. doi: 10.1126/science.1256846. PMID: 25504733

Jarvis ED, et al. Global view of the functional molecular organization of the avian cerebrum: mirror images and functional columns. J Comp Neurol. 2013 521(16):3614-65. doi: 10.1002/cne.23404. PMID: 23818122

Warren WC, et al.The genome of a songbird. Nature. 2010 464(7289):757-62. doi: 10.1038/nature08819. PMID: 20360741

K√ľnstner A, et al. Comparative genomics based on massive parallel transcriptome sequencing reveals patterns of substitution and selection across 10 bird species. Mol Ecol. 2010 19 Suppl 1:266-76. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2009.04487.x. PMID: 20331785

Wada K, et al. A molecular neuroethological approach for identifying and characterizing a cascade of behaviorally regulated genes. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2006 103(45):17064. doi: 10;103(41):15212-7. PMID: 17018643

Whitney O, Johnson F. Motor-induced transcription but sensory-regulated translation of ZENK in socially interactive songbirds. J Neurobiol. 2005 65(3):251-9. PMID: 16155900

Whitney O, Soderstrom K, Johnson F. CB1 cannabinoid receptor activation inhibits a neural correlate of song recognition in an auditory/perceptual region of the zebra finch telencephalon. J Neurobiol. 2003 56(3):266-74. PMID: 12884265

Johnson F, Soderstrom K, Whitney O. Quantifying song bout production during zebra finch sensory-motor learning suggests a sensitive period for vocal practice. Behav Brain Res. 2002 131(1-2):57-65. PMID: 11844572

Whitney O, Soderstrom K, Johnson F. Post-transcriptional regulation of zenk expression associated with zebra finch vocal development. Brain Res Mol Brain Res. 2000 80(2):279-90. PMID: 11038263

<< Back To Directory