William DeBello

William DeBello

Position Title
Associate Professor

Department of Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior, College of Biological Sciences
Center for Neuroscience

1515 Newton Ct.

Research Interests

The Barn Owl Connectome Project

Our current goal is to reconstruct the complete wiring diagram of local circuits in the barn owl auditory localization pathway. This is a classic model system for studying the neural bases of information processing, plasticity and learning. Our integrative approach combines in vivo electrophysiology, auditory and visual receptive field mapping, tracer injection, immmunohistochemistry, confocal microscopy, automated transmission electron microscopy, 3D visualization, computer simulation and bootstrap analysis. We hope to better understand how individual life experience is encoded by changes in wiring patterns, and by extension, to shed light on principles of neural processing that are employed across brain regions and across species.

Grad Group Affiliations

  • Neuroscience

Specialties / Focus

  • Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology
  • Development and Plasticity
  • Systems Neuroscience


  • SOM rm 106/317
    • DeBello Lab: Will DeBello, Tom McBride

Honors and Awards

  • Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers
  • Frontiers of Science Symposium, National Academies


    • 1990 BS (Biology) Stanford University
    • 1996 PhD (Neurobiology) Duke University


    Nichols GS and DeBello WM (2008) Bidirectional regulation of the cyclic-AMP response element binding protein encodes spatial map alignment in prism-adapting barn owls. Journal of Neuroscience 28(40):9898-9909.

    DeBello WM (2008) Micro-rewiring as a substrate for learning. Trends in Neurosciences 31(11):600-610.

    McBride TJ, Rodriguez-Contreras A, Trinh A, Bailey R and DeBello WM (2008) Learning drives differential clustering of axodendritic contacts in the barn owl auditory system. Journal of Neuroscience 28(27):6960-73.

    Swofford JA and DeBello WM. (2007) Transcriptome changes associated with instructed learning in the barn owl auditory localization pathway. Developmental Neurobiology 67(11):1457-77.

    DeBello WM, Mikula S, Nguyen PL, Karten HJ and Jones EG (2006) A digital atlas of the brain of the barn owl, Tyto Alba. Online publication: BrainMaps.org.

    Rodriguez-Contreras, A., Liu, X.-B., and DeBello, W.M. (2005) Axo-dendritic Contacts onto CaMKII-Expressing Neurons in the Barn Owl Auditory Space Map. J Neuroscience 25(23):5611-5622.

    DeBello, W.M. and Knudsen, E.I. (2004) Multiple Sites of Adaptive Plasticity in the Auditory Localization Pathway. J. Neuroscience 24(31):6853-6861.

    DeBello, W.M., Feldman, D.E., Knudsen, E.I. (2001) Adaptive Axonal Remodeling in the Midbrain Auditory Space Map. J. Neuroscience. 21(9):3161-3174.

    DeBello, W.M. and Knudsen, E.I. (2001) Adaptive Plasticity of the Auditory Space Map. Towards a Theory of Neuroplasticity. 13-30.

    Knudsen, E.I., Zheng W., DeBello, W.M. (2000) Traces of Learning in the auditory localization pathway. PNAS 97(22): 11815-20.