Linking social behavior to the brain

Project leader

Funding source

The Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation

Project Details

Start date: 01/01/2014
End date: 31/12/2018
Funding: 41229000 SEK


Evolution has produced remarkable variation in the form and processing power of brains, with the human brain standing out as the jewel in the crown. Understanding the evolutionary processes that generate variation in brain form and function remains one of the most important quests in biology. The aim of the present project is to understand how selection for social behavior has caused changes to the brain’s structure and how different brain structures affect social behavior. Our research will focus on a central, yet experimentally untested, hypothesis in the field of neurobiology: that the level of social interactions directly affects cognitive ability and brain morphology This is known as the Social Brain Hypothesis. A truly interdisciplinary team will conduct the work: behavioural ecologists, neurobiologists and geneticists, working together with applied mathematicians and engineers. This mixture of backgrounds will provide a full range of empirical and theoretical approaches to the problem, leading to new developments in methods both in biology and in applied mathematics. The sub-projects include observations of social behaviour in the wild, developing novel quantification techniques of social interactions, performing theoretical modelling based on this novel data, and experimental evolution in combination with the application of brain scans and modern genomics. The combination of these approaches will for the first time provide an exhaustive test of how increasingly complex social interactions may drive the evolution of brain morphology and cognitive ability (and vice versa) in vertebrates.

External Partners

Last updated on 2017-22-03 at 07:12