Department Chair:
Keith Tarvin

Administrative Assistant:
Twila Colley

Department Email:

Phone: (440) 775-8315
Fax: (440) 775-8960

Science Center K123
119 Woodland St.
Oberlin, OH, 44074

Office Hours: 8:00 am - 4:30 pm Monday-Friday

Catherine McCormick

Catherine McCormick

Professor of Biology and Neuroscience

Contact Information


Science Center A134
(440) 775-8322

Catherine McCormick

Catherine McCormick

Educational Background

  • Bachelor of Arts, New York University, 1973
  • Master of Science, University Michigan Ann Arbor, 1975
  • Doctor of Philosophy, University Michigan Ann Arbor, 1978

Areas of Interest

Animal Behavior, Vertebrate Biology, Neuroanatomy.

Evolution and anatomy of the vertebrate auditory and lateral line systems.
Catherine McCormick is a comparative vertebrate neuroanatomist whose research focuses on the organization and evolution of the four sensory modalities of the inner ear and lateral line: the auditory, vestibular, mechanosensory, and electronsensory systems. These four sensory systems have a complicated and apparently unusual evolutionary history that includes multiple losses, inventions, and functional changes. In effect, this diversity has created a series of natural experiments that allow researchers to explore the impact of major changes in the sensory periphery on the organization of brain circuits subserving these sensory systems. As an example, McCormick's recent studies of auditory circuitry in a variety of bony fishes indicate that a primitive pattern of circuitry has been modified at least twice among fishes that are "hearing specialists". This circuitry was previously thought to have been modified in land vertebrates only.

McCormick has been awarded grants for her studies of vertebrate brain evolution since 1981 from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, and she has been successful at obtaining NSF funds since coming to Oberlin. Her most recent publications appear in the journals Brain, Behavior and Evolution, Hearing Research and in the monograph The Evolutionary Biology of Hearing (Springer-Verlag). Students have worked in her laboratory on various research projects, including some sponsored by undergraduate research grants for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Some of these students have co-authored manuscripts with McCormick.  

Select Publications

McCormick, C.A. 2001 Brainstem acoustic areas in the marine catfish, /Arius/ /felis/. Brain, Behav. Evol. 57: 134-149.

McCormick, C.A. 2002 Variations on a Vertebrate Theme: Central Anatomy of the Auditory System in Fish. Bioacoustics 12: 134-137.

McCormick, CA (2006) Central connections of anamniote auditory otolith endorgans. J. Acoust Soc. Amer., 119: 3432.

McCormick, C.A. and M.R. Braford Jr. 2008 Evolution of the auditory system in anamniotes. Springer Encyclopedic Reference of Neuroscience, eds. Windhorst U, Binder M, Hirokawa N.; Springer-Verlag, New York.

O'Marra, S.K.* and C.A. McCormick 1999 Organization and connections of the dorsal descending nucleus and other presumed acoustic areas in the brainstem of the teleost fish, /Astronotus/ /ocellatus/. Hearing Research 129: 7-19.

Szabo, TM, C.A. McCormick, and D.S. Faber 2007 Otolith endorgan input to the Mauthner neuron in the goldfish. J. Comp. Neurol.,505: 511-525.