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Evolutionary neuroscience

Evolutionary neuroscience is an interdisciplinary scientific research field that studies the evolution of nervous systems. Evolutionary neuroscientists attempt to understand the evolution and natural history of nervous system structure and function. The field draws on concepts and findings from both neuroscience and evolutionary biology. Historically, most empirical work has been in the area of comparative neuroanatomy, and modern studies often make use of phylogenetic comparative methods. Selective breeding and experimental evolution approaches are also being used more frequently.[1]

Various lines of research have linked specific neurotransmitter pathways to particular categories of behavior. For example, the brain chemical serotonin plays a role in the development of violent tendencies. Other research strongly implicates dopamine in the control of locomotor behavior through its influences on motivation and reward.[2]

Conceptually and theoretically, the field is related to fields as diverse as comparative psychology, neuroethology, developmental neurobiology, evo-devo, behavioral ecology, biological anthropology, sociobiology, cognitive neuroscience, sociocultural evolution and evolutionary psychology.


The field began after the publication of Darwin's On the Origin of Species, but brain evolution was largely viewed at the time in relation to the incorrect scala naturae. The 1936 book The Comparative Anatomy of the Nervous System of Vertebrates Including Man by the Dutch neurologist C.U. Ariëns Kappers (first published in German in 1921) was a landmark publication in the field. Following the Evolutionary Synthesis, the study of comparative neuroanatomy was conducted with an evolutionary view, and modern studies incorporate developmental genetics.[3][4]


See also

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  1. ^ Rhodes, J. S., and T. J. Kawecki. 2009. Behavior and neurobiology. Pp. 263–300 in Theodore Garland, Jr. and Michael R. Rose, eds. Experimental Evolution: Concepts, Methods, and Applications of Selection Experiments. University of California Press, Berkeley.
  2. ^ Rhodes, J. S., S. C. Gammie, and T. Garland, Jr. 2005. Neurobiology of mice selected for high voluntary wheel-running activity. Integrative and Comparative Biology 45:438–455.
  3. ^ Northcutt, R. Glenn (August 2001). "Changing views of brain evolution". Brain Research Bulletin 55 (6): 663–674. doi:10.1016/S0361-9230(01)00560-3. 
  4. ^ Striedter, G. F. (2009). "History of ideas on brain evolution". In Jon H Kaas. Evolutionary Neuroscience. Academic Press. ISBN 0-12-375080-6. 
  1. ^ Boer, Sietse F. De, Doretta Caramaschi, Deepa Natarajan, and Jaap M. Koolhaas. (2009) "The Vicious Cycle Towards Violence: Focus on the Negative Feedback Mechanisms of Brain Serotonin Neurotransmission." Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience
  1. ^ Natarajan, Deepa, and Doretta Caramaschi. (2010). "Animal violence demystified". National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine

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