Geographical Areas of Specialization
- coevolution of brain and behavior; evolution of language; functional morphology of the brain; human variation; modeling evolutionary hypotheses; mathematical image analysis
Tom Schoenemann’s research focus is on the evolution of the brain, along with the presumed coevolution of cognitive abilities responsible for these changes. He has done work on the functional morphology of brain anatomy from an evolutionary perspective, assessed differences in brain anatomy between humans and other primates, and explored models of cognitive evolution, particularly the evolution of language.
The general focus of our lab research is the evolution of human behavior.
One area of particular focus has been on assessing the possible original evolutionary function of Broca's language area.
We are exploring the hypothesis that the original function might have been to pay attention to (and learn) various kinds of sequential pattern information in the individual's environment. We are investigating this idea by carefully mapping the overlap of lingusitic and non-linguistic funtioning in Broca's area using functional magnetic resonance imaging.
Another area of interest has been in assessing the particular ways in which our brain has changed over our evolutionary history. This can be inferred both through comparative studies of the brains of other species, as well as by studies of the braincases of our fossil ancestors.
One particular area of focus has been on trying to determine what clues might be found on early fossil braincases for important behavioral changes of various kinds - in particular language.
Another area we have pursued has been to study brain/behavior associations, typically using high resolution MRI to measure neuroanatomical variability, and then looking for possible correlations with various neurospsychological, linguistic, and general behavioral (e.g., "sociality") tasks that either appear to, or are thought to have important evolutionary significance for humans.
In particular, we have been interested in the cognitive neuroscience of stone tool manufacturing. We have explored this by assessing brain activity during stone tool manufacturing, to better understand what, if anything, the evolution of stone tool manufacturing tells us about our cognitive evolution, including possibly language.
Another research direction has been focused on trying to understand the quantitative differences in brain anatomy between humans and other primates.
We have also investigated possible relationships across primates between endocranial morphology and various interesting behavioral attributes, such as social group size, number of vocalizations, degree of tool use, and so forth.
Another line of research has been attempting to model aspects of cognitive evolution using agent-based computer simulations. The focus here has been on the evolution of language, specifically the interplay between semantic and syntactic evolution, as well as the fossil anatomical evidence relevant to the origin and evolution of language.
His research interests focus on the evolution of primate and hominin brains, functional morphology of the brain, mathematical image analysis, human variation, and the evolution of human cognition and language.
- Animal Cognition
Field of Study
- Evolution of brain size and function, evolution of intelligence and language, language and cognition, brain-behavior associations, brain imaging, quantification of cognitive variability, morphometric registration algorithms, agent-based computational mode