Dr. Elizabeth C. Leininger

Associate Professor of Biology


Phone Number

Email Address



Heiser Natural Sciences Complex E252


Heiser Natural Sciences Complex E172C



PhD, Columbia University
B.A., Swarthmore College

As a neuroethologist, Dr. Leininger researches how the nervous system functions, develops, and evolves to generate the varied animal behaviors present in nature. She uses the courtship calls of African clawed frogs (Xenopus) as a test case to understand the neural correlates of behavioral evolution. Using techniques such as behavioral recordings, electrophysiology, and histochemistry, her research program addresses questions such as why some species’ vocal repertoires exhibit extreme sex differences while others do not, and why some species’ vocalizations are more complex than others. African clawed frogs are an excellent group of organisms in which to answer these questions, because their evolutionary relationships are well resolved and some of the neural, muscular, and hormonal mechanisms underlying vocalization are known in select species. Ultimately, this research informs our understanding of how neural circuits change over the course of evolution, both within and between sexes.

In addition to her neuroscience research, Dr. Leininger is also interested in science education research related to information literacy, active learning, and metacognition.

Recent Courses

Neurobiology Laboratory
SET SAIL: The Care and Feeding of Your Brain
Foundations of Biology II
Introduction to Neuroscience
Sex, Gender, Mind, and Brain



Recent News

Scientific conferences? Liz Leininger is a pro

New College students present at national biology conference

Selected Publications

*Denotes undergraduate co-author

  • Gold, H. and Leininger, E.C. Deceived, Confused, or Peer Reviewed? Critical Information Literacy in a First-year Neuroscience Course. In Press, Journal of Undergraduate Neuroscience Education.
  • Casto, K.V., Leininger, E.C., Tan, T. Teaching About Sex/Gender in Neurosicence: More than Meets the “XY”. In Press, Journal of Undergraduate Neuroscience Education.
  • Leininger, E.C., Shaw, K., Moshiri, N., Neiles, K., Osongo, G., Ritz, A. 2021. Ten Simple Rules for Attending Your First Conference. PLOS Computational Biology. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.1009133
  • Barkan, C.L., Leininger, E.C., Zornik, E. 2021. Everything in modulation: neuromodulators as keys to understanding communication dynamics. Integrative and Comparative Biology link
  • South, K.E.*, Klingenberg, B., Leininger, E.C. 2021. A novel degree of sex difference in laryngeal physiology of Xenopus muelleri: behavioral and evolutionary implications. In press, Journal of Experimental Biology. 224, jeb231712. doi:10.1242/jeb.231712 link
  • Barkan, C.L., Leininger, E.C., Zornik, E. 2020. Vocal production in anurans. In: Neuroendocrine Regulation of Animal Vocalization: A Comparative Approach, Elsevier Press. C. Rosenfeld and F. Hoffmann, eds. link
  • Kelley, D.B., Ballagh, I.H., Barkan C.L., Bendesky, A., Elliott, T.M., Hall, I.C., Kwon, Y.M., Kwong-Brown, U., Leininger, E.C., Perez, E., Rhodes, H., Yamaguchi, A., Villain, A., Zornik, E. 2020. Coordinating and evolving neural circuits for vocal communication. Journal of Neuroscience 40(1): 22-36. [Invited review for 50th Anniversary Issue of Journal of Neuroscience.] link
  • Schlussel, A*. and Leininger, E.C. 2019. Neonicotinoid insecticides and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors interact antagonistically in Daphnia magna. Bios 90(4): 245-256. link
  • Kelley, D.B., Elliott, T.M., Evans, B., Hall, I., Leininger, E., Rhodes, H., Yamaguchi, A., Zornik, E. 2017. Probing forebrain to hindbrain circuit functions in Xenopus. genesis: The Journal of Genetics and Development 55:1-2. link
  • Leininger, E.C., Kelley, D.B. 2015. Evolution of courtship songs in Xenopus: vocal pattern generation and sound production. Cytogenetic and Genome Research 145:302-314. link
  • Leininger, E.C., Kitayama, K.*, Kelley, D.B. 2015 Species-specific loss of sexual dimorphism in vocal effectors accompanies vocal simplification in African clawed frogs (Xenopus). Journal of Experimental Biology 218(6): 849-857. link [Highlighted as an “Editor’s Choice” article and profiled in “Inside JEB”]
  • Leininger, E.C., Kelley, D.B. 2013. Distinct neural and neuromuscular strategies underlie independent evolution of simplified advertisement calls. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B. 280(1756): 20122639. link