Leah C. Wilson

Visiting Assistant Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience

Teaching this semester

NEUR 2050/PSYC 2050. Physiological Psychology

An introductory survey of biological influences on behavior. The primary emphasis is on the physiological regulation of behavior in humans and other vertebrate animals, focusing on genetic, developmental, hormonal, and neuronal mechanisms. Additionally, the evolution of these regulatory systems is considered. Topics discussed include perception, cognition, sleep, eating, sexual and aggressive behaviors, and mental disorders.

PSYC 2520. Data Analysis, B

An introduction to the use of descriptive and inferential statistics and design in behavioral research. Weekly laboratory work in computerized data analysis. Required of majors no later than the junior year, and preferably by the sophomore year.

Teaching next 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: Why did sex evolve? What evolutionary mechanisms lead to sex differences? How does the environment influence sexual differentiation? In the second section, an exploration of genetic, developmental, and physiological explanations: What role do hormones play in sexual differentiation? In many species, adult individuals change sex - how does this happen? Are there sex differences in the brain, and if so, how are they related to sex differences in behavior? In the third section, a discussion of human sex differences. How do we evaluate biological hypotheses about human sex differences? What are the differences between sex and gender? Is there a biological basis for gender identity? Lectures, readings, and assignments will 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.