The Jacobs Lab of Cognitive Biology
other bodies, other minds
Cognition is a biological trait, adapted to an ecological niche. We study that universal of universals: spatial orientation. We want to know how spatial cognitive traits adapt and evolve in response to the challenges of age, gender and species.
SQUIRRELS and SPACE. Tree squirrels must survive and reproduce in their challenging arboreal environment. Scatter hoarding species must also create huge cache maps afresh each autumn, burying thousands of nuts for their winter survival (Robin & Jacobs 2022b). We study spatial orientation, spatial memory and decision making in free-ranging adult fox squirrels on the Berkeley campus and captive juveniles, orphans being raised in wildlife rescue centers.
From Lucia’s dissertation research at Princeton on spatial memory in gray squirrels (see picture of youngster below), the program evolved to study species and/or sex differences in spatial memory in kangaroo rats, voles, lab mice and humans.
SMELLS AND SPACE. Individual differences in space use led to the discovery of the same individual differences in the hippocampus. This led to “unpacking the cognitive map”, when Jacobs & Schenk (2003) proposed the parallel map theory, a new hypothesis of hippocampal function based on navigating not only to landmarks but also to gradients, e.g., odor plumes.
This led further to the olfactory spatial hypothesis: olfaction cannot be understood apart from its role in navigation (Jacobs, 2012) and navigation by the hippocampus cannot be understood apart from olfaction (Jacobs, 2022a).
Finally, the PROUST hypothesis – perceiving and reconstructing odor utility in space and time – reframes olfactory cognition as embodied, embedded, enacted, extended and evolved (Jacobs, 2023).
“Perceiving and reconstructing odor utility in space and time”: the PROUST hypothesis
How do the constraints of the physical and social environment drive economic decisions and cognitive evolution in squirrels?
Understanding human memory requires an evolutionary perspective – on space and smells.
Parkour learning in wild squirrels, our first paper in squirrel cognitive biomechanics
Whereupon Lucia is interviewed on legislature funding research for COVID-sniffing dogs…
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.
Department of Psychology, University of California
2121 Berkeley Way West
Berkeley, CA 94720-1650