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].
Lucia awarded Radcliffe Fellowship at Harvard
Lucia teaches new course, Psych 124, on evolutionary anthropology
Symposium: Lucia brings evolution and olfaction to the discussion
Lucia has opportunity to talk about Sarah Hrdy
Mikel Delgado presents new squirrel results
Dr. Mikel Delgado moving on to postdoc at UC Davis
Back in her prior hometown of Vienna, Austria, Lucia gives keynote on the human nose.
Nate Hunt presents our work on learning to leap in squirrels
Lucia gives plenary talk on squirrels at the London Zoo
Mikel Delgado and her research profiled
“Watch These Frustrated Squirrels Go Nuts”
Science Scope profiles our work on search dogs
“Inside the heroic snout of a rescue dog”
Honor’s Thesis awarded
Lucia gives keynote address at Robotics: Science and Systems in Ann Arbor.
KQED films Mikel, with Amanda helping
Ideas Lab team member John Crimaldi and measuring odor plumes
Michelle Ramey heads to Davis for a Ph.D. in neuroscience
Amanda celebrating her graduation with Flame
Aaron returns from a year studying ground squirrels in South Africa