Jesse H. Goldberg, M.D., Ph.D.


Jesse H. Goldberg, M.D., Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Neurobiology and Behavior
Cornell University
W117 Mudd Hall
City, State, ZIP
Ithaca, NY 14850
(917) 545-6211
[email protected]
Research field
Award year
Pew distinction
Innovation Fund investigator


Humans are remarkably social. Though our hips and spine are built for walking upright, case reports reveal that neglected children raised with dogs crawl on all fours—a harrowing lesson that our drive for social connection overrides even our genetic programming for how to move. The Goldberg lab is interested in how social learning interacts with motor systems in the brain. To distinguish general principles from behavior-, effector-, and species-specific solutions to learning problems, we study vocal communication, courtship, and parenting in both songbirds and parrots—two species with distinct learning capacities and neural circuitry. We also examine how mice aim their limbs and tongues. For all of our research, we combine electrophysiology, optogenetics, and machine learning-guided behavioral analysis. Our guiding philosophy is that comparative approaches in systems neuroscience are necessary to discover core functions of evolutionarily conserved learning systems that go awry in neuropsychiatric disorders such as Parkinson’s, schizophrenia, and autism.

As an Innovation Fund investigator, Jesse Goldberg, M.D., Ph.D., is teaming up with Robert Froemke, Ph.D., to study the ways that animals respond to their young’s need to feed. Vocalizing this need is how both young songbirds and mice communicate to their parents. In birds, hungry chicks produce begging calls; in mice, infants will produce ultrasonic vocalizations to alert their parents. The behaviors are similar, but the neural pathways involved are not well understood, especially in a cross-species context. To study this, the Goldberg and Froemke labs will evaluate the dopamine and oxytocin signals in neurons that drive this behavior in birds and run parallel studies in mice. This comparative approach between two very different species will shed light on parent-child interactions at both the neural and behavioral levels.

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