Welcome to the Laboratory of Comparative Neuropsychology

News and science blog

Faculty Newsletter piece on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

See here my personal message and an argument for us all to emerge as EDI Champions. Share your thoughts on Social Media #UniqueEDIChampion


Chris Petkov nominated again for TEA award in challenging times for staff, students and everyone. Prior Award and Nomination here

Card image cap

Dr Yuki Kikuchi for her promotion to Senior Research Associate, in recognition of her independent research work

Dr Ben Wilson for his faculty position at Emory University

Dr Ross Muers for his new position at Glasgow University with Dr Jozien Goense

Jen Nacef for outstanding lab managing and the Laboratory of Comparative Neuropsychology team for incredible efforts in an extremely challenging year. Thank you everyone!


Language precursor pathway discovered in the auditory system

Newsweek https://bit.ly/3awFlMs        

Summary of media coverage 

Reddit >35K upvotes top in science

Press release https://bit.ly/3anRfIo


Chris Petkov and Anna Mitchell (Oxford), Co-Editors in Chief for CURRENT RESEARCH IN NEUROBIOLOGY

Cover image Current Research in Neurobiology


INTERVIEW: Research and Medical Benefits (direct link here)

SPOTIFY PODCAST on Language Evolution, Music and Neuroscience with SparkDialog

Articles for Speaking of Research

Is Animal Research Worth the Expense?

A Small Number of Monkeys Could Help Millions of People: Coronavirus Vaccine Testing


BBC Radio 3 Public Engagement Activity at Newcastle Sage: Hear the live BBC Radio 3 broadcast with Tom Service and hear the outcome of our music and time perception experiment: How does music warp people’s perception of time?



Human language (edited by Peter Hagoort)

The Neocortex (edited by Wolf Singer and colleagues)

PERSPECTIVES on Language Evolution. Special issue in Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences. Read the Editorial Overview


31 contributions from world leading authorities and upcoming bright stars on language evolution rooted in core principles on neural systems and cognition aim to provide thought provoking perspectives and new insights on the evolution of cognition and language. Articles can be found here.


Leverhulme Doctoral Training at the Instutute: Fully funded 4-year PhD studentships in behaviour informatics and the multimodal study of behaviour

BLOG on recentĀ Publications:

*Rocchi F, *Oya O, Balezeau F, Billig AJ, Kocsis Z, Jenison R, Nourski KV, Kovach CK, Steinschneider M, Kikuchi Y, Rhone AE, Dlouhy BJ, Kawasaki H, Adolphs R, Greenlee JDW, Griffiths TD, Howard MA III & Petkov CI. (2020) Common fronto-temporal effective connectivity in humans and monkeys. bioRxiv, provisionally accepted in Neuron

Exciting report from the Newcastle Iowa collaboration. Using the same approach for visualizing the impact of brain stimulation that our groups have recently translated to human patients at Iowa from the monkey work, we found evidence for a substantial amount of correspondence in neural function (effective connectivity) across the species. This is important becauseĀ for human language and cognition substantial differences in brain network connectivity might be expected. We see a surprisingly broadly conserved pattern with the key difference being in the way the patterns are lateralized across the hemispheres in the human brain (relative to a less lateralized system in monkeys). This discovery bodes well for translation of information on this fronto-temporal system from animal models to human patients.

Balezeau F, Wilson B, Gallardo G, Dick F, Anwander A, Hopkins W, Friederici A, Griffiths TD & Petkov CI (2020) Primate auditory prototype in the evolution of the arcuate fasciculusNature Neuroscience.

Discovery made possible by international EU and US collaboration involving six institutions. We found a homolog of the human language pathway hiding in the auditory system of apes and monkeys. This is analogous to finding the fossil of a long suspected ancestor, but since brains do not fossilize neuroscientists have to infer what ancestral brains might have been like by studying the brains of extant primates and comparing to brain scans in humans. However, this ancestral pathway may be older still, so the paper encourages further work in animal species more distantly related to humans and provides a clue to look in the auditory system!

This project relied on globally shared data in apes and humans, generated original new brain scanning data in monkeys and shared the data to encourage further discovery. The discovery complements other work in progress to understand this pathway important for cognition in human and nonhuman primates and language in humans, with direct links to neurology and neurosurgery clinicians and their patients with langauge or memory difficulties resulting from stroke, brain degeneration (dementia), epilepsy or auto-immune encephalitis.

Klink C et al. & Petkov CI. (2020). Combined Brain Perturbation and neuroimaging in non-human primates. Open Science Framework preprint, in review

This paper is an extensive review from experts in the community combining brain stimulation and perturbation approaches that have tremendous potential for scientific advance and therapeutics with brian imaging to visualize. This effort complements other recent papers and advances in both human and nonhuman primates (Petkov et al., 2015; Oya et al., 2017; Thompson et al., 2020; Rocchi et al., in press). Upon this fundamental work with nonhuman primates a number of innovative approaches for stimulating the brain could further translate to greater therapeutic use in humans in the near future, and some already have.

Thompson WH, Nair R, Oya H, Esteban O, Shine JM, Petkov CI, Poldrack RA, Howard M & Adolphs R. (2020) A data resource from concurrent intracranial stimulation and functional MRI of the human brain. Scientific Data

Brain stimulation is an important treatment for debilitating disorders. When combined with brain imaging it becomes possible to visualize the impact of stimulation on the brain. Following on prior developments in primates and humans (Petkov et al., 2015; Oya et al., 2017) this paper establishes a unique resource of data from combined brain stimulation and imaging. This resource is available via OpenNeuro and will continue to grow, including with the recent papers (Rocchi, Oya et al., in press; Klink et al. 2020).

Perry AL, Mason S, Nacef J, Waddle A, Hynes B, Bergmann C, Schmid MC, Petkov Ci, Thiele A & Mitchell AS (2020) Protective cranial implant caps for macaques. J. Nsci. Methods

This paper was made possible by the Oxford Newcastle Exchange (ONE) collaboration on animal welfare. It was also an award winning presentation at the AST2020 conference (Andrew Blake Tribute Award, for the best refinement ). We developed a simple yet potentially important cap (a modified version of the facemask system we’ve used previously that was developed in collaboration with the Freeman Hospital cancer radiotherapy unit: Slater et al., 2016). Using this as a protective cap shows quantifiable post-surgical benefits. This development and data will be shared via the PRIME-DE and PRIME Research Exchange data and information sharing efforts (Milham et al., 2018; Milham, Petkov and Consortium, 2020). This means that other groups could further assess and contribute this type of information as part of metadata on primates.

See NC3Rs press release here

Milham M*, Petkov C* [plus 150 others]. (2020) Accelerating the evolution of nonhuman primate neuroimaging. Neuron

Speaking of Research article about the work

Nature article about work

A community of 150 individuals across laboratories here defines the importance of primate neuroimaging. The community also defines their ambitions in the next 5-10 years for global data sharing. The importance for humans is noted here. Also see.

Calmus R, Wilson B, Kikuchi Y & Petkov CI, Neural mechanisms for complex combinatorial binding: Computationally and neurobiologically informed hypotheses, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, Biological Sciences, (2019).

The cognitive mind and brain is so complex that we are lost without a model. This is part of Ryan Calmus’ PhD work to generate a computational model (VS-BIND) that is complementary to deep learning approaches. The model is computationally elegant and generates exciting predictions about how the brain creates mental structures. By mental structures I mean how the brain allows us to structure our complex sensory environment, with language (what you and I are using right now) a prime example of how the brain needs to efficiently find the symbols (words) and the relationship between them in a sentence. If this fails comprehension goes out the door and a person is locked out from communication. Our hypothesis is that this process is fundamental for cognition, is based on an ancient ancestral brain system and Ryan’s model charts a way forward with our neurobiological work, which is also likely to improve the model.

See all prior blogs at the publications page …

Our Laboratory Scientific Mission

Our research uses advanced imaging and neurophysiological methods to study perceptual awareness and cognition, with an emphasis on communication: auditory or multisensory, informing and responsive to work with neurosurgery and neurology patients. Research Directions

Our group is pursuing evolutionary relationships in brain function. We are guided by the notion that information on how the human brain changed during its evolutionary history will be indispensable for advancing treatments for cognitive and communication disorders. This includes addressing forms of aphasia, amnesia, agnosia and language disorders.

Human and Animal Research, Welfare and Scientific Discovery: We work with typical individuals and patients whenever the scientific questions can be answered in humans. We also collaborate with neurosurgery groups working with patients being treated for brain disorders. Whenever necessary and the scientific questions cannot be addressed in humans alone, we also work to understand how the brain works, why neural systems falter and what we might be able to do to improve learning and brain plasticity to compensate for impairments in nonhuman animals. For instance, we conduct comparative studies to test for and establish direct relationships to the work in humans, making the animal research as relevant for human medical science as is possible. Our laboratory follows the highest ethical standards for all of our human and nonhuman animal work and all of the work is stricly regulated by local, national and international regulatory bodies. Our laboratory is firmly rooted in the principle that scientific discovery can and should co-occur with advances in welfare (human or nonhuman). To this aim we actively contribute towards advancing the 3Rs principles.

Chris was co-founder with Prof. R. Lemon of the UK Expert Group in NHP neuroscience, that provides information for funders, goverment and the public on this sensitive area of science. Chris is also on the Speaking of Research committee and writes articles on science, discovery and animal research and welfare for the public.

Newcastle is a signatory of the UK Concordat on Openness on Animal Research.  You can find Newcastle University’s statement and information on animal research here. We support advances in animal welfare and scientific discovery. All of our work is strictly regulated by the UK Home Office or the relevant human ethical regulatory bodies in the UK and US.

Current Funding

Wellcome Trust
European Research Council
National Institutes of Health (in collaboration with HBRL at University of Iowa)

Past Funders

Wellcome Trust
Helsinki University
Alexander von Humboldt Foundation
Max-Planck Society
National Institutes of Health
M.I.N.D. Institute