Tracy Larson

Assistant Professor of Biology
304 PLSB  
(434) 297-7946


  • Ph.D., Biology, University of Washington, 2014
  • Certificate of Law, International Bioethics, Social Justice and Health, University of Washington, School of Law, 2014
  • B.S., Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, University of Washington, 2006
  • B.S., Neurobiology, University of Washington, 2006

Research Interests

Our research program seeks to uncover the origin, function, and cellular, molecular, and biochemical mechanisms underlying natural variation in the spatial and temporal patterns of adult neurogenesis. We combine several approaches including behavioral genomics, comparative neuroanatomy, cellular and molecular biology, and electrophysiology with mechanistic studies in songbirds to accomplish our research aims. 

By integrating approaches and using the songbird as a model, my research program addresses questions such as: What are the mechanisms that promote regeneration of the adult brain? Can mechanisms that are robust in songbirds be exploited to encourage the addition of new functional neurons in the poorly regenerating mammalian brain? What cellular mechanisms modulate the spatial and temporal patterns of adult neurogenesis and how have they evolved?

Current research topics include, but are not limited to:

  • developing an annotated genome and performing genome scans for two songbird species
  • Identifying unique cell populations of the neural circuit responsible for song production using single-cell RNAseq
  • identifying the individual and combinatorial contributions of neuroinflammation and sex steroids in modulating natural reactive neurogenesis
  • mathematical modeling and simulation of the cell dynamics within the song production circuit

Current techniques in use include, but are not limited to:

  • single-cell RNAseq 
  • various histological techniques including immunohistochemistyr and in situ hybridization to characterize the types and numbers of various neural cell types, including micro- and macro-glia, neural stem cells, and neurons, across states of stable and highly plastic levels of adult neurogenesis
  • in vivo hormonal, pharmacological and neurosurgical manipulations to test hypothetical mechanisms regulating the patterns of cell types discovered during basic characterization of cell types with special emphasis on neural stem cell progeny
  • population genomics and linkage mapping

For more information, please visit our website.

Representative Publications

  • Lewis VM, Saunders LM, Larson TA, Bain EJ, Sturiale SL, Gur D, Chowdhury S, Flynn JD, Allen MC, Deheyn DD, Lee JC, Simon JA, Lippincott-Schwartz J, Raible DW, Parichy DM (2019) Fate plasticity and reprogramming in genetically distinct populations of Danio leucophores. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA pnas.1901021116. 
  • Larson TA*, Thatra NM, Hou D, Hu RA, Brenowitz EA. (2018) Seasonal changes in neuronal turnover in a forebrain nucleus in adult songbirds. J Comparative Neurology 1–13.
  • Larson TA*. Sex steroids, adult neurogenesis, and inflammation in CNS homeostasis, degeneration, and repair. (2018) Frontiers of Endocrinology  doi 10.3389/fendo.2018.00205 
  • Ben Hamo M, Larson T, Duge L, Sikkema C, Wilkinson CW, de la Iglesia H, González M. (2016) Circadian forced desynchrony of the master clock leads to phenotypic manifestation of depression in rats. eNeuro 10.1523/ENEURO.0237-16.2016
  • Larson TA, Lent KL, Bamler TK, MacDonald JW, Wood WE, Caras ML, Thatra NM†, Budzillo A, Perkel DJ, Brenowitz EA (2015) Network analysis of microRNA and mRNA dynamics in a highly plastic sensorimotor neural circuit. BMC Genomics 16: 905 doi: 10.1186/s12864-015-2175-z
  • Brenowitz EA & Larson TA. (2015) Neurogenesis in the Adult Avian Song Control System. Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Biology 7(6):a019000.
  • Larson TA, Thatra NM†, Lee B†, Brenowitz EA. (2014) Reactive neurogenesis in response to naturally occurring apoptosis in an adult brain. The Journal of Neuroscience 34(39): 13066-76 doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3316-13.2014 PMID: 25253853
  • Larson TA, Wang TW, Gale SD, Miller KE, Thatra NM†, Caras ML, Perkel DJ, Brenowitz EA (2013) Postsynaptic neural activity regulates neuronal addition in the adult avian song control system. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 110 (41): 16640-44 doi: 10.1073/pnas.1310237110, PMID: 24062453
  • Larson TA, Gordon TN,  Lau EM, Parichy DM. (2010) Defective adult oligodendrocyte and Schwann cell development, pigment pattern, and craniofacial morphology in puma mutant zebrafish having an alpha tubulin mutation. Developmental Biology 346(2): 296-309 doi 10.1016/j.ydbio.2010.07.035 PMID: 20692250