James Arthur Lecture: Evolution of the Human Brain main content.

James Arthur Lecture: Evolution of the Human Brain

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Stylized rendering of a human brain. Courtesy of Silver Blu3

Speaker: Rob DeSalle, Curator in the AMNH Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics

Subject: Brains and Genomes: How Much Will We Learn?

The Lecture

We human beings are fascinated with the fact that our brains set us apart from other species on this planet. But exactly how different we are, and why, are questions that we have yet to answer. Even the structural aspects of our brains are not fully understood, as evidenced by the recent focus of neurobiologists on brain mapping. Many scientists have suggested that important answers to these questions lie in our genomes.

This lecture will examine the extent to which genetics and genomes are involved in determining how and why our brains function. How much of our genome controls or impacts the brain? Do we really have genes “for” certain behaviors? Do genes control how we interact with our environment? Will we be able to change our genomes to enhance the functioning of our brains? These and other questions will all be discussed in the context of the evolution of the human brain.

The Lecturer

Rob DeSalle is a curator in the American Museum's Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics. He is affiliated with the AMNH Division of Invertebrate Zoology and works in the Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics, where he leads a group of researchers working on molecular systematics, molecular evolution, population and conservation genetics, and evolutionary genomics of a wide array of life forms ranging from viruses, bacteria, corals, and plants, to all kinds of insects, reptiles, and mammals.

Rob is also Adjunct Professor at Columbia University. Distinguished Professor in Residence at New York University, Adjunct Professor at City University of New York, Resource Faculty at the New York Consortium in Evolutionary Primatology, and Professor at the AMNH Richard Gilder Graduate School. Over the last decade Dr DeSalle has curated several major exhibits concerning the brain and the senses at the AMNH, including Brain: The Inside Story (2013), Our Senses: An Immersive Experience (2017) and Color (2020)