Marc Schmidt

Professor of Biology
Co-Director, Biological Basis of Behavior Program
B.A., Swarthmore College, Biology, 1986
PhD, Colorado State University, Neuroscience, 1993


Birdsong is one of the most tractable model systems for the study of complex learned behaviors. Much of the strength of the system lies in the ease with which the behavior can be quantified and the prominence of the highly specialized circuit, known as the song system, that is involved in song learning and production. In addition, because song learning in birds and language acquisition in humans are both dependent on auditory feedback, the study of birdsong learning is likely to provide many insights into the mechanisms underlying vocal development in humans. Work in our laboratory is centered on understanding the mechanism(s) underlying vocal production and in particular how the respiratory system might play a key role in synchronizing ‘cortical’ song motor activity in each hemisphere. We have also recently become interested in the possible role the song system plays in female sexual preference. The long-term goal of our laboratory is to understand how the nervous system encodes complex learned behaviors.

Office Location: 
312 Leidy Labs
Research Interests: 

Encoding of Complex Motor Behaviors

Respiratory Control

Vocal Learning

Selected Publications: 

Lewandowski B. C. and M. F. Schmidt (2011) Short bouts of vocalization induce long lasting fast gamma oscillations in a sensorimotor nucleus. J. Neuroscience 31(39): 13936-13948

Margoliash, D. and M.F. Schmidt (2010) Sleep, off-line processing, and vocal learning. Brain and Language 115: 45 – 58

Schmidt, M. F. (2008) Using Both Sides of Your Brain: The Case for Rapid Interhemispheric Switching. PLoS Biology 6: 2089 – 2093

Ashmore R. C., J. A. Renk and M. F. Schmidt (2008) Bottom-up Activation of Forebrain Vocal Motor Structures by the Respiratory Brainstem. J. Neuroscience 28: 2613 – 2623

Courses Taught: 

BIOL/BBB251: Cellular & Molecular Neurobiology

BIOL451/BBB479: Neural Systems and Behavior