The Jacobs Lab of Cognitive Biology

 

How to build a brain: start with smells, space and squirrels

 

 

 

Our work synthesizes concepts from ecology, animal behavior, cognitive science and neuroscience in order to understand the evolution of universal cognitive traits, such as spatial memory and navigation.

How did brains evolve? I proposed that brains evolved in response to the problem of mapping space using smells, using a parallel map architecture (Jacobs, 2012), an idea which built on my prior theory of navigation and hippocampal function (Jacobs & Schenk, 2003). Currently I am developing the PROUST (perceiving and recalling odor utility in space and time) hypothesis: a thesis to explain how the two major olfactory systems radiated in response to the conflict between olfaction and respiration in terrestrial vertebrates (Jacobs, in prep). [OLFACTION AND SPACE].[HIPPOCAMPAL MAPS].[HUMAN SPATIAL EVOLUTION].

We also study behavior in the flesh – specifically, the wild squirrels on the Berkeley campus. Our behavioral economic analyses of squirrel foraging – their eat or cache decisions, the creation of annual cache maps – serves as a paradigm to understand memory and decision processes in semi-natural habitats, e.g., an introduced squirrel species living in an urban park. We are currently funded by the Army Research Office in a 5-year MURI grant with engineers, neuroscientists and mathematicians to model the development and expression of cognition and decision processes in squirrels, to inform the blue sky goal of creating the world’s first robotic squirrel.[SPATIAL ECONOMICS] [SQUIRREL SCHOOL].  

News

Interview with Wall Street Journal

Interview with Wall Street Journal

The Importance of Squirrels for Mental Health in a Pandemic (yes, we're all going nuts)When Your Best Friend in Quarantine is a Squirrel.... great article by Ellen Gamerman. She and Lucia had a long discussion on what squirrels mean to people living in isolation in...

The navigational nose

The navigational nose

Published today – Lucia’s new hypothesis for the function and evolution of the human external nose.

Rocky is…pink

Rocky is…pink

Truth is stranger than fiction – flying squirrels (like Rocky) glow bright pink under UV light! A valentine squirrel…

Judy shows that geckos walk on water

Judy shows that geckos walk on water

From the New York Times today, a great write-up of Judy's work that she started as a student project in Bob Full's amazing class on biomechanics!"Dr. Nirody, who will start research at Rockefeller University this coming year, and Judy Jinn, were graduate...