Associate Professor of Psychology and
Associate Director for Communications, Vanderbilt Brain Institute
Suzana Herculano-Houzel, Ph.D., is a biologist and neuroscientist at Vanderbilt University, where she is Associate Professor in the Departments of Psychology and Biological Sciences. Her research focuses on what different brains are made of; what that matters in terms of cognition, energy cost, and longevity; and how the human brain is remarkable, but not special, in its makeup. She is the author of The Human Advantage (MIT Press, 2016), in which she tells the story of her discoveries on how many neurons different species have—and how the number of neurons in the cerebral cortex of humans is the largest of them all, thanks to the calories amassed with a very early technology developed by our ancestors: cooking. She spoke at TEDGlobal 2013 and TEDxNashville 2018 and is an avid communicator of science to the general public.
To learn more about Professor Herculano-Houzel and her research, please visit her website.
Whatever works: Celebrating diversity in brain scaling and evolution
Dr. Herculano-Houzel will present the Keynote at the 2021 annual meeting.
Animals come in many sizes and shapes, and one would be hard-pressed to say that any one is better than the other, because all of them have passed the test of evolution: they’re here, so they have obviously been good enough. Still, what weighs on the trade-off scale when animals and their brains vary in size? What can be said about scaling of the visual system, in particular? What does it cost to have more neurons? Is it even necessary for larger animals to have more neurons? This talk will tackle the old topic of scaling in a new light that celebrates diversity, rather than assume that biology is improved through natural selection.