Leah C. Wilson

Visiting Assistant Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience

Teaching this semester

BIOL 2135/NEUR 2135. Neurobiology

Examines fundamental concepts in neurobiology from the molecular to the systems level. Topics include neuronal communication, gene regulation, morphology, neuronal development, axon guidance, mechanisms of neuronal plasticity, sensory systems, and the molecular basis of behavior and disease. Weekly lab sessions introduce a wide range of methods used to examine neurons and neuronal systems.

BIOL 2567/NEUR 2567. Biology of Sex Differences

Examines the biological processes underlying sex differences in anatomy, physiology, and behavior in many species, from insects to humans. In the first section, students explore evolutionary and ecological explanations for sex and sex differences and question: why sex evolved;the evolutionary mechanisms leading to sex differences; and how the environment influences sexual differentiation. The second section—an exploration of genetic, developmental, and physiological explanations—questions:what role hormones play in sexual differentiation; how, in many species, adult individuals change sex; if there are sex differences in the brain, and if so, how they are related to sex differences in behavior.The third section, a discussion of human sex differences, questions: how we evaluate biological hypotheses about human sex differences; what the differences are between sex and gender; and if there is a biological basis for gender identity. Lectures, readings, and assignments build on students' fundamental understanding of both cellular and ecological processes.

My research is motivated by two central questions: 1) what are the neuroendocrine mechanisms of social behavior, and 2) how do neuroendocrine mechanisms generate individual and species differences in behavior? My previous work focused on the neuroendocrine mechanisms that generate seasonal variation in group size in sparrows. At Bowdoin, I am exploring how different neurochemical systems organize social behavior in a two species of teleost fish, the zebrafish and the goldfish.


  • Ph.D. , Indiana University; Bloomington, IN
  • M.S., College of William & Mary; Williamsburg, VA
  • B.A., Oberlin College; Oberlin, OH

Personal Website


Wilson, L.C., Goodson, J.L, Kingsbury, M.A. 2016. Seasonal variation in group size is related to seasonal variation in neuropeptide receptor density. Brain Behavior Evolution. 88:111-126.

Kingsbury, M.A., Wilson, L.C., 2016. The role of VIP in social behavior: Neural hotspots for the modulation of affiliation, aggression, and parental care. Integrative and Comparative Biology. 56:1238-1249.

Wilson, L.C. and Swaddle, J.P. 2013. Manipulating the perceived opportunity to cheat: An experimental test of the active roles of male and female zebra finches in mate guarding behavior. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology. 67:1077-1087.

Goodson, J. L., Wilson, L.C., Schrock, S.E. 2012. To flock or fight: Neurochemical signatures of divergent life histories in sparrows. PNAS, "In the Light of Evolution. VI: Brain and Behavior" invited colloquium submission. 29:10685–10692.

Owen, J.C., Moore, F.R., Williams, A.J., Miller, E.A., Wilson, L.C., Morley, V., Abbey-Lee, R.N., Veeneman,B.A., DeRussey, B., McWhorter, M., and Garvin, M.C. 2010. Test of recrudescence hypothesis for overwintering of West Nile virus in gray catbirds. Journal of Medical Entomology. 47:451-457.