Ofer Tchernichovski

Main Research Areas

  • We study vocal learning in songbirds
  • We experiment with song culture in the lab
  • We developed the vocal robot method for studying the coordination of calls in songbirds.
  • We use virtual world experiments to study online cultures in humans




1985–1988Tel Aviv University | B.Sc., Biology
1989–1993The Hebrew University | DVM, Veterinary Medicine
1990–1995Tel Aviv University | Ph.D., Ethology
1996–1998The Rockefeller University | Postdoctoral, Ethology

Positions and Employment

2011–PresentProfessor, Hunter-CUNY, Psychology
2009–2012Professor, CCNY-CUNY, Biology
2001–2008Associate professor, CCNY-CUNY, Biology
1999–2000Assistant Professor, The Rockefeller Univ., Laboratory of animal behavior
1996–1998Postdoc, The Rockefeller Univ., Laboratory of animal behavior
1993–1995Lecturer, The Hebrew Univ., School of Vet Medicine



Selected Publications

O Tchernichovski, LC Parra, D Fimiarz, A Lotem, D Conley (2019) Crowd wisdom enhanced by costly signaling in a virtual rating system. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 116 (15), 7256-7265

Z Shi, Z Piccus, X Zhang, H Yang, H Jarrell, Y Ding, Z Teng, O.Tchernichovski, X. Li. (2018) miR-9 regulates basal ganglia-dependent developmental vocal learning and adult vocal performance in songbirds. eLife 7, e29087

O Tchernichovski, D Lipkind (2017) Animal Communication: Origins of Sequential Structure in Birdsong. Current Biology 27 (23), R1268-R1269    

JH Bruno, O Tchernichovski (2017) Regularities in zebra finch song beyond the repeated motif. Behavioural processes 2.

K Tokarev, JH Bruno, I Ljubičić, PJ Kothari, SA Helekar, O Tchernichovski & H Voss (2017) Sexual dimorphism in striatal dopaminergic responses promotes monogamy in social songbirds
elife 6, e25819

D Lipkind, AT Zai, A Hanuschkin, GF Marcus, O Tchernichovski, R. Hahnloser (2017) Songbirds work around computational complexity by learning song vocabulary independently of sequence. Nature communications 8 (1), 1247

O Tchernichovski, O Feher, D Fimiarz, D Conley (2017) How social learning adds up to a culture: from birdsong to human public opinion. Journal of Experimental Biology 220 (1), 124-132

O Fehér, I Ljubičić, K Suzuki, K Okanoya, O Tchernichovski (2017) Statistical learning in songbirds: from self-tutoring to song culture. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 372 (1711), 20160053

JI Benichov, SE Benezra, D Vallentin, E Globerson, MA Long & O. Tchernichovski (2016) The Forebrain Song System Mediates Predictive Call Timing in Female and Male Zebra Finches. Current Biology, 26-3.

Lipkind, D., Marcus, G., Bemis, D., Sasahara, K., Jacoby, N., Takahashi, M., Suzuki, K., Feher, O., Ravbar, P., Okanoya, K.,  & Tchernichovski, O. (2013) Stepwise acquisition of Combinatorial Capacity in songbirds and human infants. Nature. doi: 10.1038/nature12173.

Ravbar, P., Parra, LC., Lipkind, D., Tchernichovski, O. (2012) Vocal exploration is locally regulated during song learning. J. Neuroscience.

Lipkind, D., Tchernichovski, O (2011) Quantification of developmental birdsong learning from the subsyllabic scale to cultural evolution. PNAS. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1012941108

Feher O*, Wang H, Saar S*, Mitra PP, Tchernichovski O (2009) De novo establishment of wild-type song culture in the zebra finch. Nature 459 2009 DOI: 10.1038

Complete List of Published Work in MyBibliography 


Awards and Grants

Contribution to Science

Vocal learning: Most of my publications addressed mechanisms of developmental vocal learning in songbirds. My lab pioneered quantitative analysis of entire vocal development in songbirds. We discovered how vocal sounds differentiate during early development and how sleep affect vocal learning from moment to moment and over development. We developed techniques for tracking the developmental of vocal combinatorial capacity in songbirds and in human infants. I served as the primary investigator or co-investigator in all of these studies: 

Neuronal mechanisms of vocal learning: using brain imaging, I am collaborating with Henning Voss (Cornell Medical College) and others to figure out how vocal learning affects the tuning of auditory brain centers to vocal sounds. I also study how Melatonin and sleep affect vocal development:

  • Maul KK, Voss HU, Parra LC, Salgado-Commissariat D, Ballon D, Tchernichovski O, Helekar SA (2010) The development of stimulus-specific auditory responses requires song exposure in male but not female zebra finches. Dev Neurobiol.[+Cover] 70(1):28-40.PMID: 19937773
  • Voss HU, Tabelow K, Polzehl J, Tchernichovski O, Maul KK, Salgado-Commissariat D, Ballon D, Helekar SA. (2007) Functional MRI of the zebra finch brain during song stimulation suggests a lateralized. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 Jun 19;104(25):10667-72.
  • Deregnaucourt S, Mitra PP, Feher O, Pytte C, Tchernichovski O (2005) How sleep affects the developmental learning of bird song. Nature, Vol. 433, No. 7027, 710-716.

Software development: Since 2001, my lab started to share birdsong analysis techniques with the community. Over the years we combined those tools to a software called Sound Analysis Pro, which is now used by many labs. In recent years we further expended sharing of methods in free software packages and resources: 

  • Tchernichovski, O., Mitra, P.P. & Others (2000-present).  Sound Analysis Pro: Software for automated measurements of vocal learning. Current version: SAP2011. Platform: MS Windows 7; Usage terms: GNU Free Public License.  Distribution: 133 registered labs. SAP was cited by 203 publications, and was actively used in at least 74 of them. SoundAnalysisPro.com 
  • Tchernichovski, O. (2015-present) Sound Analysis Tools for Matlab: Sound Analysis Tools for Matlab (SAT) is similar to Sound Analysis Pro: It includes a collection of tools for studying animal vocalization. As in SAP it has two main modules: 1. Exploring vocal sounds through simple acoustic features such as pitch, Wiener entropy, etc. 2. Computing similarity measurements using these features. soundanalysispro.com/matlab-sat
  • Tokarev K. & Tchernichovski, O. (2015-present) Bird puffer: Bird Puffer is a combined software/hardware solution for rapid training of zebra finches to discriminate between songs, within a biologically valid context. We use it to train naïve animals within 3 hourly sessions (see our paper for more data), while experienced animals can learn to discriminate between songs within several minutes in this training system. Zebra finches love to socialize and never seem to get enough of it. Therefore, we use social contacts as means to keep the animals engaged in training. The system includes two cages with a little window between them for socializing. By choosing to socialize next to the window, the animal will voluntarily risk receiving an air-puff (harmless but unpleasant), which can be associated with specific sounds via our software. Zebra finches quickly learn to escape the air puff by flying away after hearing those sounds.
  • Tchernichovski, O., Clayton D., Scharff, C & others (2011- present):  A wiki content management system for sharing methods and resources for the birdsong neuroscience community. The system was programed in Plone. http://SongBirdScience.com


Research Support

Ongoing Research Support

2000-2019R01, NIH DC04722-13 behavioral mechanisms of vocal development.
Role: PI. Agency: NIDCD, 60% efforts.