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Indiana University Bloomington

Department of Biology

Faculty & Research

Faculty Profile

Marcy Kingsbury

Photo of Marcy Kingsbury
Research Images
Research photo by Marcy Kingsbury

A. Violet-eared waxbill (Uraeginthus granatina). B. Zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata). C. Vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP) mRNA (green) and c-Fos immunoreactivity (red) illustrating the induction of immediate early gene expression in VIP cells in the medial preoptic nucleus of a nesting female zebra finch. DAPI nuclear stain is shown in blue. D. Immunolabeled cells and fibers for VIP (red) and vasotocin (VT, green) in the septohypothalamic region of the violet eared waxbill. DAPI nuclear stain is shown in purple.

Contact Information
By telephone: 812-856-2391
By fax: 812-855-6705
JH A013

Kingsbury-Goodson Lab
Mechanisms of Behavior

Research Areas
  • Behavior
  • Evolution

Ph.D. Cornell University, 2000

Postdoctoral Fellow, UC San Diego, 2000-2003

Postdoctoral Fellow, The Scripps Research Institute, 2003-2007

Research Description

Our research is focused on the structure and function of social behavior circuitry in the brain. Of particular interest are variations in structure and function that produce individual, sex, species and seasonal differences in behavior. Much of the behavioral diversity that we observe is produced by variation in gene expression rather than by large-scale reorganizations of social circuitry or major differences in anatomy. In fact, the core components of the brain's "social behavior network" are strikingly similar across vertebrate groups. Most of our work is conducted in socially diverse species of songbirds, including estrildid finches and emberizid sparrows. The estrildid finch family offers a unique ability to determine how neural and motivational processes have evolved in relation to sociality since species from this family display large variation in group sizes but are matched in other aspects of behavior and ecology.

Our work has focused on the nonapeptides vasotocin and mesotocin, which are homologues of the mammalian neuropeptides vasopressin and oxytocin. We have identified anatomical and functional properties of nonapeptide circuits that closely match individual, sex, and species differences in behavior. We have also manipulated nonapeptide systems and shown that we can influence an individual’s choice of group size, independent of that individual’s decision to be social. Other studies in our lab have demonstrated that these nonapeptides are important modulators of additional behaviors such as aggression, pair bonding, and anxiety-like behavior.

In addition to vasotocin and mesotocin, we have examined other neuropeptides and enzymes, including tyrosine hydroxylase, aromatase, corticotropin releasing hormone and vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP), all of which appear to be relevant to individual, species and seasonal differences in social structure.

Of these, the neuromodulator VIP is currently a focus of ongoing lab studies since VIP cells, fibers and receptors are found in virtually every brain region that is important for social behavior. However, few studies have examined the behavioral functions of this peptide outside of its role as the main regulator of prolactin secretion from the pituitary. We are currently investigating whether VIP circuits may be variably important for grouping behavior, aggression, pair bonding, social anxiety and parental care in the gregarious zebra finch under support from the National Institutes of Health.

Select Publications
Kingsbury, M. A. and Goodson, J. L. (2014) Pair bond formation is impaired by VPAC receptor antagonism in the socially monogamous zebra finch. Behav. Brain Res. 272: 264-268. PMID: 25014003
Kingsbury, M. A., Miller, K. M., and Goodson, J. L. (2013) VPAC receptor signaling modulates grouping behavior and social responses to contextual novelty in a gregarious finch: a role for a putative prefrontal cortex homologue. Horm. Behav. 64: 511-518. PMID 22759599.
Kingsbury, M. A., Gleason, E. D., Ophir, A. G., Phelps, S. M., Young, L. J., and Marler, C. A. (2012) Monogamous and promiscuous rodent species exhibit discrete variation in the size of medial prefrontal cortex. Brain Behav. Evol. 80: 4-14. PMID: 23899763.
Goodson, J. L., Kelly, A. M., Kingsbury, M. A., and Thompson, R. R. (2012) An aggression-specific cell type in the anterior hypothalamus of finches. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A. 109: 13847-13852. PMID: 22872869.
Goodson, J. L., and Kingsbury, M. A. (2012) Evolving nonapeptide mechanisms of gregariousness and social diversity in birds. Horm. Behav. 61: 239-250. PMID: 22269661.
Goodson, J. L., and Kingsbury, M. A. (2011) Nonapeptides and the evolution of social group sizes in birds. Front. Neuroanat. 5: 13. PMID: 21427780.
Kingsbury, M. A., Kelly, A. K., Schrock, S. E., and Goodson, J. L. (2011) Mammal-like organization of the avian midbrain central gray and a reappraisal of the intercollicular nucleus. PLoS ONE 6: e20720. PMID: 21694758.
Kelly, A. M., Kingsbury, M. A., Hoffbuhr, K., Schrock, S. E., Waxman, B., Kabelik, D., Thompson, R. R., and Goodson, J. L. (2011) Vasotocin neurons and septal V1a-like receptors potently modulate songbird flocking and responses to novelty. Horm. Behav. 60: 12-21. PMID: 21295577.
Goodson, J. L., Schrock, S. E., Klatt, J. D., Kabelik, D., and Kingsbury, M. A. (2009) Mesotocin and nonapeptide receptors promote songbird flocking behavior. Science 325: 862-866. PMID: 2862247.

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