Behavioural Biology

Sanne Moorman

PhD student





Kruijt Gebouw Room O 209
Padualaan 8
3584 CH Utrecht
The Netherlands
telephone: +31-30-2535412

Research interest

In February 2010 I started as a PhD student at Behavioural Biology, Utrecht University, in the group of Prof. Dr. Johan Bolhuis. We study neuronal mechanisms of birdsong memory in zebra finches. I am interested in several neurobiological topics, with the functioning of neuronal networks as a general theme: on a large scale, but even more on synapse level. More concrete, I like to study brain processes such as learning, memory, neuronal plasticity, sensory processes, integration of sensory processes, and behaviour of animals and humans, using a cellular or molecular approach. The combination of all these interests lies very naturally in birdsong research.


Project description

Songbirds, such as the zebra finch, need to learn their songs from a male adult bird. They remember the tutor song and develop an own song that is very similar. Birdsong research is performed to study neural networks of memory and becomes increasingly popular as a model for human language. The project that I am working on concerns memory formation in young zebra finches and neuronal mechanisms of memory that are active during sleep. Using immunohistochemistry, cellular activation during memory consolidation can be measured. I will study this in juvenile finches that are learning a song. After they have been trained during the day, we will test what brain areas are active during the night.



If you are interested in a research project concerning memory of birdsong, please contact me by e-mail (


2007-2009: Master Behavioural Neuroscience and Cognition at Utrecht University

  • 9 Months research project on mirror neurons and the human visual system using fMRI, under supervision of Prof. Dr. Richard van Wezel and Dr. Mathijs Raemaekers, Utrecht University
  • 6 Months research project concerning molecular pathways of neuronal regeneration, University of Miami, USA

2003-2007: Bachelor Biology at Utrecht University

2005-2008: Chair and member of the boards of the Faculty of Science and the Biology Department


1. Moorman, S., Mello, C.V., and Bolhuis, J.J. From songs to synapses: Molecular mechanisms of birdsong memory. BioEssays, 33(5): 377-385, 2011.

2. Usher, L., Johnstone, A., Erturk, A., Hu, Y., Strikis, D., Wanner, D., Moorman, S., Lee, J-W., Min, J., Ha, H-H., Duan, Y., Hoffman, S., Goldberg, J., Bradke, F., Chang, Y-T., Lemmon, V., and Bixby, J. A chemical screen identifies novel compounds that overcome glial-mediated inhibition of neuronal regeneration. The Journal of Neuroscience, 30(13): 4693-4706, 2010.

3. Raemaekers, M., Lankheet, M.J.M., Moorman, S., Kourtzi, Z., and van Wezel, R.J.A. Directional Anisotropy of Motion Responses in Retinotopic Cortex. Human Brain Mapping, 30, 3970-3980, 2009.


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