Lady with long silver hair with summery black top in front of Old Centre

Melissa Burns-Cusato

H.W. Stodghill, Jr. and Adele H. Stodghill Professor of Behavioral Neuroscience

Chair of Behavioral Neuroscience

Offices & Programs


BS: animal behavior, Southwestern University
PhD: behavioral neuroscience, The University of Texas at Austin


Melissa Burns-Cusato joined Centre’s faculty in 2006 and is H. W. Stodghill, Jr. and Adele H.W. Stodghill Professor of Psychology. In 2010, she was named a Centre Scholar. She received the Kirk Teaching Award in 2018. Before coming to Centre, Dr. Burns-Cusato taught in the psychology department at Texas Christian University and then conducted post-doctoral research in the Neuroscience program at the University of Virginia. 

Dr. Burns-Cusato’s research interests include the formation and maintenance of monogamous relationships in birds and the mechanisms involved in maintaining nesting behavior throughout a breeding season. She is also involved in studies involving elephants, sloths, and bears at the Louisville Zoo. During summers and Centre Terms, Dr. Burns-Cusato investigates the crop-raiding behavior of free-ranging Caribbean green monkeys while teaching Centre students field research techniques in Barbados. 

She has published her research in a variety of peer-reviewed journals including Behavior, Physiology & Behavior, Journal of Comparative Psychology, Psychobiology, Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, Learning & Behavior, and Genes, Brain,& Behavior. 

She holds a B.A. degree in animal behavior from Southwestern University and a Ph.D. in behavioral neuroscience from the University of Texas at Austin. 


  • Foundations of Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Animal Behavior
  • Research in Primate Behavior


*Indicates Student Co-author

  • White, B., Burns-Cusato, M., Taylor, S.R., Gyimesi, Z.S., Burton, S.D., *Cathey, C.C., & *Riley, A. (2022). Cortisol secretion in an African calf (Loxodonta africana) including evidence for a foetal surge. Journal of Zoo and Aquarium Research
  • Burns-Cusato, M. & Cusato, B.M. (2022). Naturalistic learning and reproduction in ring neck doves (Streptopelia risoria). Learning & Behavior.
  • Burns-Cusato, M., *Rana, A., *Hawkins, W., *Young, Z., & Huber, M. E. (2022). Egg burial in ringneck dove (Streptopelia risoria): A potential laboratory model system for antiparasitic egg rejection research. Journal of Comparative Psychology
  • Burns-Cusato, M., *Reiskamp, J., *Nagy, M., *Rana, A. *Hawkins, W., *Panting, S. (2021).  A role for endogenous opiates in incubation behavior in ring neck doves (Streptopelia risoria). Behavioural Brain Research, 399, 113052 10.1016/j.bbr.2020.113052  
  • Burns-Cusato, M. & Cusato, B. (2019). Where in the world is this research taking us? Collaborating on publishable research with undergraduates abroad. Frontiers in Psychology. 
  • Burns-Cusato, M., *Glueck, A., C., *Merchak, A. R., *Palmer, C. L., *Rieskamp, J. D., *Duggan, I. S., *Hinds, R. T., Cusato, B. (2016). Threats from the past: Barbados green monkeys fear leopards after centuries of isolation.  Behavioral Processes, 126, 1-11. 
  • Burns-Cusato, M., Cusato, B.M., & *Glueck, A.C. (2013). Barbados green monkeys (Chlorocebus Sabaeus) recognize ancestral alarm calls after 350 years of isolation. Behavioral Processes, 100, 197-199. 
  • Burns-Cusato, M. & Cusato, B. (2013). Mate reinforcement value and the pair bond in ring neck dove (Streptopelia risoria) Behaviour, 150, 255-276. 
  • Pehar, M., Burns-Cusato, M., Andrzejewski, M. E., Li, H., O'Riordan, K. J., del Alcazar, C. G., Burger, C., Scrable, H., & Puglielli, L. (2010). The altered longevity-assurance activity of p53:p44 in the mouse causes memory loss, neurodegeneration, and premature death. Aging Cell, 9(2), 174-190  DOI: 10.1111/j.1474-9726.2010.00547.x. 
  • Scrable, H., Burns-Cusato, M., & Medrano, S. (2009) Anxiety and the aging brain: Stressing out over p53. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - General Subjects, 1790(12), 1587-91.  
  • Cusato, B. M., & Burns-Cusato, M. (2009). Individual recognition requires physical and behavioral cues in Japanese quail. International Journal of Comparative Psychology, 22, 93-112. 
  • Medrano, S., Burns-Cusato, M., Atienza, M. B., Rahimi, D., & Scrable, H. (2009). The regenerative capacity of neural precursors in the adult mammalian brain is under the control of p53. Neurobiology of Aging, 30(3), 483-497. 
  • Park, J. H., Burns-Cusato, M., Dominguez-Salazar, E., Riggan, A., Shetty, S., Burgoyne, P. S., Arnold, A. P., & Rissman, E. F. (2008). Effects of sex chromosome aneuploidy on male sexual behavior. Genes, Brain, & Behavior, 7, 609-617.  

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