Biologists interested in cognitive evolution have focussed on the dramatic expansion of the forebrain, particularly the neocortex, in lineages such as primates.
Another structure, however - the cerebellum - contains four to five times more neurons than the neocortex, is massively and reciprocally inter-connected with it via intermediate nuclei, has complex cognitive and learning functions, and yet has been largely ignored in accounts of cognitive evolution. This talk explores the correlated evolution and ontogeny of neocortex, cerebellum and associated structures and the implications of such patterns for understanding the neural basis of cognition. Consistent with the idea of embodied cognition, brain size is associated with specific sensory-motor specializations. The results emphasize the importance of considering how individual brain regions are embedded within a neural architecture, and potentially reconcile adaptationist and associationist perspectives as applied, for example, to mirror neurons. Presented by Robert Barton (Anthropology, Durham University, UK).