Barney A. Schlinger

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Barney A. Schlinger
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Alma mater
  • Tufts University
  • Boston University
  • Professor
  • Research

Barney (Barnett) A. Schlinger is Professor of Integrative Biology & Physiology and of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Dr. Schlinger graduated with a degree in Biology from Tufts University in 1977 and completed an M.S. and Ph.D. in Biology at Boston University. Upon receipt of his Ph.D. in 1988, he began a post-doctoral fellowship in the Department of Psychology at UCLA, a position he held for 3 years before being appointed an Assistant Research Psychologist in 1991. In 1993 he was appointed as Assistant Professor in the Department of Physiological Science at UCLA. That department later changed its name to Integrative Biology and Physiology (IBP). Dr. Schlinger was promoted to Full Professor in 2002. He has been a member of the Laboratory of Neuroendocrinology of the UCLA Brain Research Institute since 1988.

Dr. Schlinger was appointed Chair of the IBP department in 2009, a position he held for 9 years. In 2022 he was appointed Associate Dean for Academic Personnel of the Life Sciences Division at UCLA.

Outside of UCLA, and upon receipt of an Alexander von Humboldt Research Award for Senior U.S. Scientist, Dr. Schlinger was a Visiting Scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen, Germany. He has been a Research Associate of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama. He served as President of the Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology (as well as President-elect and Immediate Past President) from 2017-2023.

Dr. Schlinger’s research is roughly divided into three areas of interest as described below with selected publications included as well:

Estrogen Synthesis in Brain: Dr. Schlinger has maintained a long interest in the actions of steroids on the central nervous system. Largely examining avian models, he has explored neuroestrogen synthesis with a focus on the enzyme aromatase that catalyzes the conversion of androgens into estrogens. Over the years, his work has demonstrated expression and activity of this enzyme in brain of diverse species and with diverse functions. He has documented a role for neuroestrogens in neuronal development and proliferation, neural repair and protection, sexual and aggressive behaviors, learning and memory, and auditory processing. His work demonstrates estrogen synthesis at the synapse with post-synaptic actions, or synaptocrinology (1-7).

Neurosteroidogenesis: Dr. Schlinger has found evidence, especially in the songbird brain, that hormonal steroids could be synthesized directly in the brain itself. Members of his lab have found expression and, in many cases, activity of enzymes and transporters required for steroid synthesis from cholesterol. His research over the years has not only added considerable evidence to support the concept of functional neurosteroidogenesis but also extended our appreciation of how neurosteroids control natural animal neural function and behavior (8-13).

Physiology of Elaborate Animal Courtship: Dr. Schlinger has developed an animal model, the golden-collared manakin (Manacus vitellinus) of Panama, for investigating the hormonal, neural and muscular control of complex vertebrate behavior. This work spans tropical field behavioral ecology with organ level physiology and molecular and cellular biology. The bird is an especially important model because the males perform a physically elaborate courtship display. As a suboscine songbird their behavior and its neurohormonal basis can be directly compared to the very well-studied group of oscine songbirds. His studies 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 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 and the physiology underlying behavior (14-24).

His book Schlinger, B.A. “The WINGSNAPPERS Lessons from an Exuberant Tropical Bird”, published by Yale University Press, will be available mid-summer 2023.

1. Schlinger, B.A. and A.P. Arnold. 1991. Brain is the major site of estrogen synthesis in an adult male songbird. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. USA 88:4191-4194. 2. Schlinger, B.A., S. Amur-Umarjee, P. Shen, A.T. Campagnoni and A.P. Arnold. 1994. Neuronal and non-neuronal aromatase in primary cultures of developing zebra finch telencephalon. J. Neuroscience. 14:7541-7552. 3. Peterson, R.S., Yarram, L., Schlinger, B.A. and C.J. Saldanha. 2005. Aromatase is Presynaptic and Sexually-Dimorphic in the Adult Zebra Finch Brain. Proc Roy Soc Lond. B. 272: 2089-2096. 4. Remage-Healey, L., N. T. Maidment and B.A. Schlinger. 2008. Forebrain steroid levels fluctuate rapidly during social interactions. Nature Neuroscience 11:1327-1334. 5. Remage-Healey, L., M.J. Coleman, R.K. Oyama and B.A. Schlinger. 2010. Brain estrogens rapidly strengthen auditory encoding and guide song preference in a songbird. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. USA, 107: 3852-3857. 6. Saldanha, C.J., Remage-Healey, L., Schlinger, B.A. 2011. Synaptocrine Signaling: steroid synthesis and action at the synapse. Endocrine Revs. 32:532 – 549. 7. Schlinger, B.A., Remage-Healey, L., Saldanha, C.J. 2022. The form, function, and evolutionary significance of neural aromatization. Front. Neuroendo. 64: 100969.

8. Schlinger, B.A. and A.P. Arnold. 1992. Circulating estrogens in a male songbird originate in the brain. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. USA, 89: 7650-7653. 9. London SE, A. Monks, J. Wade and B.A. Schlinger. 2006. Widespread capacity for steroid synthesis within the avian brain and song system. Endocrinology 147: 5975-5987. 10. London, S.E., J. Boulter and B.A. Schlinger. 2003. Cloning of the androgen synthetic enzyme CYP17 in the Zebra Finch: A study of its neural expression throughout development. J. Comp. Neurol. 467: 496-508. 11. Soma, K.K., N.A. Alday and B. A. Schlinger. 2004. DHEA Metabolism by 3-HSD in Adult Zebra Finch Brain: Sex Difference and Rapid Effect of Stress. Endocrinology 145: 1668-1677. 12. London, S.E., Remage-Healey, L, B.A. Schlinger. 2009. Neurosteroid Production in the Songbird Brain: A re-evaluation of core principles. Front. Neuroendocrinology. 30: 302-314. 13. Pradhan, D.S., A.E.M. Newman, D.W. Wacker, J.C. Wingfield, B.A. Schlinger, and K.K. Soma. 2010. Aggressive interactions rapidly increase androgen synthesis in the brain during the non-breeding season. Horm. Behav. 57: 381-389 14. Feng, N., A. Katz, L. Day, J. Barske and B.A. Schlinger. 2010. Limb muscles are androgen targets in an acrobatic tropical bird. Endocrinology, 151: 1042-1049. 15. Schultz, D. and B.A. Schlinger. 1999. Widespread accumulation of 3H-testosterone in the spinal cord of a wild bird with an elaborate courtship display. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. USA. 96: 10432-10436. 16. Fuxjager, M.J.,Schultz, J.D., Barske, J., Feng*, N.Y.,Fusani, L., Mirzatoni, A.,Day, L.B., Hau, M. and B.A. Schlinger. 2012. Spinal motor and sensory neurons are androgen targets in an acrobatic bird. Endocrinology. 153(8):3780-91. 17. Schlinger, B.A., J. Barske, L. Day, L. Fusani and M.J. Fuxjager. 2013. Hormones and the neuromuscular control of courtship in the Golden-collared manakin (Manacus vitellinus). Front. Neuroendocrinol. 34: 143–156. 18. 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 19. Fusani, L., J. Barske, L.B. Day, M.J. Fuxjager and B.A. Schlinger. 2014. Sexual selection for male acrobatics in golden-collared manakins: female choice for neuromuscular skills. Neurosci. Biobehav. Revs. 46: 534-546. 20 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. 21. 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. 22. Chiver, I. and B.A. Schlinger. 2017. Sex differences in androgen activation of complex courtship behavior. Anim. Behav., 124: 109-117. (Highlighted by a NY Times feature, 1/20/17) 23. Chiver, I. and B.A. Schlinger. 2017. Clearing up the court: sex and the endocrine basis of display-court manipulation. Anim Behav, 131: 115-121 24. Fuxjager, M., Fusani, L. and B.A. Schlinger. 2022. Physiological innovation as a basis for courtship behavior. Anim. Behav. 184: 185-195.


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