Laboratory for Darwinian Neuroscience

brain imageIn fathers, activity in the ventral tegmental area (part of the dopamine reward network) in response to viewing pictures of their own children is positively correlated with their involvement in direct forms of caregiving.

The Mission of the Laboratory for Darwinian Neuroscience is two-fold. One goal is to investigate the neural bases of human social cognition and behavior, particularly those aspects that have been under strong evolutionary selection pressure. Ongoing research projects related to this goal include:

  • An fMRI investigation of the neural bases of reciprocated and unreciprocated cooperation
  • An fMRI investigation of the neural bases of paternal nurturance
  • A study examining the role of oxytocin in social bonding and social loss among war veterans

A second goal is to advance our understanding of hominin brain evolution through comparing the brains of modern humans with non-human primate brains using a variety of non-invasive brain imaging technologies, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), positron emission tomography (PET), diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). These methods enable comparisons of brain structure and function between humans and non-human primates.


Diffusion tensor imaging color map of rhesus macaque brainDiffusion tensor imaging color map of rhesus macaque brain.

Ongoing research projects related to this goal include:

  • Using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) to compare cortical connectivity in humans, great apes and monkeys
  • A TMS study aimed at elucidating the function of precuneus expansion in recent human evolution