The Smulders Lab is based in the Institute of Neuroscience and is part of the University-wide Centre for Behaviour and Evolution. We are interested in how evolution modifies the brain (or particular brain areas), and how this relates to the behaviours in which these areas are involved. We study this at two levels: macro-evolutionary and micro-evolutionary.
On the macro-evolutionary level, we are interested in how brain areas conserve their function (or converge on similar functions) over deep evolutionary time. In particular, we study the hippocampal formation of birds and mammals, and investigate how two very differently-organized structures (at least at first glance) perform such similar functions. We are also applying what we learn about these similarities to developing novel animal welfare measures.
On a more micro-evolutionary level, we are interested in how brain structures change in closely related species with the evolution of novel behaviours. For this, we compare food-hoarding birds to closely-related non-hoarding birds. We are interested in two aspects of this brain/behaviour system: how did hoarding behaviour evolve and how did spatial memory mechanisms adapt to a food-hoarding life style.
You can find out more about all these projects on our Research tab.
If you are interested in working on any of these topics, we are always open to exploring possibilities and funding opportunities. Don’t hesitate to contact Tom at tom.smulders[at]ncl.ac.uk.