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].
Parkour learning in wild squirrels, our first paper in squirrel cognitive biomechanics
A monthly bulletin on new and upcoming research on our favorite topics.
Masha and Judy in the field with our portable weather stations
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...
Introducing…the Squirrel Sorbonne??
This time creating a great overview of our research on search dogs, with a featured performance by Zinka, co-starring Shay Cook.
Veronique Bohbot’s study of the association between spatial ability and olfactory ability in humans is reviewed in this article in The Scientist.
Published today – Lucia’s new hypothesis for the function and evolution of the human external nose.
Truth is stranger than fiction – flying squirrels (like Rocky) glow bright pink under UV light! A valentine squirrel…
What can squirrels tell us about human brain plasticity? Well, not much, lacking verbal language, but Lucia speculates, in a conversation with Colleen Walsh of the Gazette.
Not just Martin Luther King, Jr. Day…but a special day for squirrels as well.
Now a graduate student in neuroscience at in San Diego, Jiwan’s passion for pastry (which WE knew about) has now led him to a television appearance and award!
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...
The BBC doc on our squirrels airs on PBS
Great review by Ideas Lab collaborators.
Aslan begins at UC Hastings in 2018
New funding for captive squirrel research from a Multi-University Research Initiative grant
At second iNav, Lucia proposes a reconsideration of the rhinencephalon.
10th Annual meeting: Lucia lectures on the mind of a squirrel
Lucia presents PROUST hypothesis as part of JEB Symposium on Animal Navigation