The Schlinger laboratory studies the activational and organizational effects of sex steroid hormones on neural structure and function. Steroids have dramatic effects on brain and behavior in birds and they are the focus of most of our studies. We are particularly interested in the process of steroid synthesis: what tissues make steroids that act on the brain and how steroid synthesis is regulated. Some of this research is stimulated by the intriguing idea that sex steroids might be synthesized within the brain itself to influence brain development or to activate behaviors when birds are reproductively inactive.

We study birds in the lab and in the field, from the behavior and reproductive physiology of the living bird down to the expression of genes and the ultrastructural location of proteins in neural and non-neural cells. Sometimes the answers we get are quite unexpected and open our eyes to new endocrine capabilities and unique steroidal functions. Whatever the outcome, our results enrich our view of the natural world and wonders of avian biology.