October 04, 2023, 17:00:
Ernst Bresslau Public Lecture

Talk by Prof. Brian H. Smith
Title of the Talk: Reverse engineering brains: Use of animal ‘models’ for understanding the relation between brain, behavior and cognition

Neuroscientists are tasked with understanding how the brain works. To do this neuroscientists must ‘reverse engineering’ from a whole brain to understanding its components parts. Fortunately, the nervous systems of all animals work by way of the same types of electrical and chemical signaling. So we can understand a lot about brains in general from studying a wide variety of animal nervous systems, which helps with the reverse engineering problem. In particular, brain-to-body size relationships across different animals, including the developmental mechanisms that regulate brain size, can tell us a lot about the evolution of cognition. Because of their small brain size and surprising learning abilities, insects can tell us a lot about how animal cognition has evolved and how cognitive abilities are enabled by brain circuitry. This talk will review briefly how brains evolve, and it will feature examples of insect cognition that fit into the picture of the how learning capacity emerges from neural processing.