Lucia F. Jacobs
2121 Berkeley Way, Room 3330 (by appointment)
Office Hours: 
Tuesday 8:30-10 AM
1978 B.S., Cornell; 1987 Ph.D., Princeton
Research Area: 
Secondary Research Area: 
Curriculum Vitae: 

Office 510-642-5739 

Research Interests: 
How to build a brain: start with smells, space and squirrels.
  • whatshotResearch Description

    Our work synthesizes concepts from ecology, animal behavior, cognitive science and neuroscience in order to understand the evolution of universal cognitive traits, such as spatial memory and navigation.

    How did brains evolve? I have proposed that brains evolved in response to the problem of mapping space using smells, using a parallel map architecture (Jacobs, 2012). This work built on my insights from studying hippocampal evolution (parallel map theory; Jacobs & Schenk, 2003). Currently I am developing the PROUST (perceiving and recalling odor utility in space and time) hypothesis: a thesis to explain how the two major olfactory systems radiated in response to the conflict between olfaction and respiration in terrestrial vertebrates (Jacobs, in prep).

    We also study behavior in the flesh - specifically, the wild squirrels on the Berkeley campus. Our behavioral economic analyses of squirrel foraging - their eat or cache decisions, the creation of annual cache maps - serves as a paradigm to understand memory and decision processes in semi-natural habitats, e.g., an introduced squirrel species living in an urban park. We are currently funded by the Army Research Office in a 5-year MURI grant with engineers, neuroscientists and mathematicians to model the development and expression of cognition and decision processes squirrels, to inform the blue sky goal of creating the world’s first robotic squirrel. 

  • placeSelected Publications
    • Jacobs, L.F. (2019) The navigational nose: a new hypothesis for the function of the human external pyramid. Journal of Experimental Biology 1–12.
    • Delgado, M.M. and Jacobs, L.F. (2017) Caching for what and where: evidence for a mnemonic strategy in a scatter-hoarder. Royal Society Open Science. 4: 170958.
    • Jacobs, L. F., Arter, J., Cook, A., & Sulloway, F. J. (2015). Olfactory orientation and navigation in humans. PLoS ONE, 10(6) e0129387. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0129387.s001.
    • Jacobs, L.F. & Randolf Menzel (2014). Navigation outside the box: what the lab can learn from the field and what the field can learn from the lab. Movement Ecology 2: 3. Doi:10.1186/10.1186/2051-3933-2-3.
    • Jacobs, L. F. (2012). From chemotaxis to the cognitive map: the function of olfaction. Proc Nat Acad Sci USA109, 10693–10700.
    • Jacobs, L. F., and Schenk, Françoise. (2003). Unpacking the cognitive map: the parallel map theory of hippocampal function. Psychological Review, 110, 285-315.
    • Jacobs LF (1996) Sexual selection and the brain. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 11:82–86
    • Jacobs LF, Liman ER (1991) Grey squirrels remember the locations of buried nuts. Animal Behaviour 41:103–110
    • Jacobs LF, Gaulin SJC, Sherry DF, Hoffman GE (1990) Evolution of spatial cognition: sex-specific patterns of spatial behavior predict hippocampal size. Proc Nat Acad Sci USA 87:6349–6352
  • filter_dramaTeaching

    Psychology 124:  The Evolution of Human Behavior (Spring 2021, Fall 2021)

    Psychology 290B: Topics in Cognition and Evolution (Fall 2022)