Workshop Brain and behavioral evolution in primates

From September 25, 2019 to September 29, 2019

Erice, Sicily, Italy

The purpose of the Workshop is to highlight new perspectives on the evolution of the primate brain in relation to new insights into behavior and higher cognitive processes.

The search for explanations of how the human brain evolved necessarily requires an understanding of the core mechanisms of neural processing and of anatomical variation among species. Sources of interindividual and intergroup variation are critical for any trait evolution. It is therefore important to understand how different primate species adapted to different ecologies and how such adjustments affected brain circuit evolution. Neglecting the complexity of primate behavior led some neuroscientists to narrow the interpretation of brain mechanisms and networks to a limited number of functions, overlooking the basic evolutionary concept that a single trait rarely serves a single function. This situation has changed in the last few decades. We host this workshop with the explicit aim of continuing to foster crucial interdiscinplinary exchange, which we see as key to a comprehensive understanding of primate evolution through a comparative analysis of core brain mechanisms and behaviors. Moreover, a full understanding of such mechanisms requires an analysis of the genetic and epigenetic regulatory processes that are involved in sculpting the complex and plastic neural architecture. How the environment, either physical or social, has contributed to maintaining traits of plasticity in adulthood remains still poorly understood. In this workshop we bring together leading figures in science who apply an evolutionary method and an interdisciplinary approach to the basic mechanisms of the brain and its neural architecture in order to better understand how primates organize behavior and to explain how primate and human - brain structure evolved. The workshop will attempt to understand these aspects of brain and behavior in primates and will foster discussion between scholars, students and researchers from different field of sciences: Ethology, Psychology, Neuroscience, Epigenetics, and Anthropology. 

Organising committee: 

  • Pier Francesco Ferrari (Institute des Sciences Cognitives Marc Jeannerod, Lyon, France)
  • Catherine Crockford (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany)
  • Roman Wittig (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany)