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Barnett Schlinger

Barnett Schlinger

Associate Dean

Office: 2135 TLSB
Phone: (310) 825-5716

Research Interests

Estrogen Synthesis in Brain: We have maintained a long interest in the actions of steroids on the central nervous system developmentally and in adulthood. My lab explores sex steroid synthesis and metabolism with a focus on aromatase the enzyme that catalyzes conversion of androgens into estrogens. Over the years, our work has demonstrated expression and activity of this enzyme in brain of diverse species and with diverse functions. Our work has documented evidence for a role of neuroestrogens in neuronal development and proliferation, neural repair and protection, sexual and aggressive behaviors, learning and memory, and auditory processing.

Neurosteroidogenesis: A concept that emerged a number of years ago was that hormonal steroids could be synthesized, de novo, in the brain itself. For such synthesis to occur, enzymes and transporters are required to be expressed and active in brain that start with cholesterol and, by a series of enzyme catalyzed reactions, produce a diversity of functional steroidal end products. Dogma has held that these biochemical processes occur exclusively in vertebrate gonads and adrenals. Whether this process actually occurred in the vertebrate brain and whether these neurosteroids were functional remained somewhat open questions for many years. My lab explores this phenomenon in wild and captive avian models. Our work supports the concept of functional neurosteroidogenesis and extends our appreciation of this process into our thinking of the hormonal control of natural animal behavior.

Physiology of Elaborate Animal Courtship Over 23 years ago, I began work developing an animal model, the golden-collared manakin (Manacus vitellinus) of Panama, as a system for investigating the hormonal, neural and muscular control of a complex vertebrate behavior. This work spans tropical field behavioral ecology with organ level physiology and molecular and cellular biology. Our study of the extraordinary and physically challenging courtship of male Manacus species has revealed unique specializations in skeletal and muscle anatomy as well as that of endocrine, neural and muscle physiology. Sequencing of this manakin genome together with our efforts to promote genomic sequencing of other manakins, makes these birds now a key animal clade for using molecular genetic approaches to understand the evolution and development of complex social systems and behavior.


B.S., Biology, Tufts University
M.S., Biology, Boston University 1983
Ph.D., Biology, Boston University 1988

Selected Publications

Saldanha, C.J., Remage-Healey, L., Schlinger, B.A. 2011. Synaptocrine Signaling: steroid synthesis and action at the synapse. Endocrine Revs. 32:532 – 549

Barske J., Schlinger B.A.,Wikelski M., Fusani L. Female choice for male motor skills.  2011. Proc. Roy. Soc. Lond. B. 278:3523-3528.

Remage-Healey, L., Dong, S.*, Maidment, N., and B.A. Schlinger. 2011. Presynaptic Control of Rapid Estrogen Fluctuations in the Songbird Auditory Forebrain. J. Neurosci. 31:10034 –10038.

Fuxjager, M., K. Longpre, J. Chew*, L. Fusani and B.A. Schlinger. 2013. Peripheral androgen receptors sustain the acrobatics and fine motor skill of elaborate male courtship. Endocrinology 154: 3168-3177.

Barske, J., Fusani L., Wikelski M., Feng N., Santos M., Schlinger B.A. 2013. Energetics of courtship of Golden-collared manakins (Manacus vitellinus). Proc. Roy. Soc. Lond- B.  Dec 18;281(1776):20132482. doi

Fuxjager, M.J., J. Eaton*, W.R Lindsay, L.H Salwiczek, M.A Rensel, J. Barske, L.B Day and B.A Schlinger. 2015. Evolutionary patterns of adaptive acrobatics and physical performance predict expression profiles of androgen receptor – but not estrogen receptor – in the forelimb musculature.  Funct. Ecol. 29, 1197–1208.

Fuxjager, M.J. #, J-H., Lee#, T-M., Chan, J. H. Bahn, J.G. Chew*, X.Xiao‡, and Barney A. Schlinger‡. 2016. Hormones, Genes, and Athleticism: Effect of Androgens on the Avian Muscular Transcriptome. Mol Endocrinology, 30: 254-71.

Bodony, D.J, Kharon, Aharon, Swenson, G.W., Wikelski, M., Day, L., Fusani, L., Friscia, A and B.A. Schlinger. 2016. Determination of the wingsnap sonation mechanism of the Golden-Collared Manakin (Manacus vitellinus). J. Exp. Biol. 219: 1524-1534.

Kosarussavadi, S., Pennington, Z. and B.A. Schlinger. 2017. Across Sex and Age: Learning and Memory and Patterns of Avian Hippocampal Gene Expression. Behav. Neurosci. 131: 483-491.

Pradhan, D.S., Van Ness, R.*, Chunqi, M., Jalabert, C., Hamden, J.E., Soma, K.K., Ramenofsky, M. and B.A. Schlinger, B.A. 2019. Phenotypic flexibility of glucocorticoid signaling in skeletal muscles of a songbird preparing to migrate.  Horm. Behav. 116, 104586.