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.
Jacobs L.F. (in press, 2021) How the evolution of air breathing shaped hippocampal function. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. Special issue on evolution and neuroscience, Ed. Paul Cisek
Hunt NH, Jinn J, Jacobs LF, Full RJ (2021) Acrobatic squirrels learn to leap and land on tree branches without falling. Science 373:697–700. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.abe5753
Jinn J, Connor EG, Jacobs LF (2020) How ambient environment influences olfactory orientation in search and rescue dogs. Chemical Senses 45:625–634. https://doi.org/10.1093/chemse/bjaa060
Jacobs LF (2019) The navigational nose: a new hypothesis for the function of the human external pyramid. Journal of Experimental Biology 1–12. https://doi.org/10.1242/jeb.186924
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. http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsos.170958
Jacobs, L. F. (2012). From chemotaxis to the cognitive map: the function of olfaction. Proc Nat Acad Sci USA, 109, 10693–10700. http://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1201880109
Jacobs, L. F., and Schenk, Françoise. (2003). Unpacking the cognitive map: the parallel map theory of hippocampal function. Psychological Review, 110, 285-315.
Psychology 124: The Evolution of Human Behavior (Fall 2021, Spring 2022)
Lucia F. Jacobs