november, 2016

29nov1:00 pm2:00 pmA model for brain life history evolutionDr Mauricio González-Forero


Event Details



Elaborate cognitive abilities and relatively large brains are distributed across a variety of taxa, and there is a large number of primarily verbal hypotheses to explain such diversity. Yet, mathematical models formalizing verbal arguments and helping deepen our understanding of brain and cognition evolution remain scarce. To address this issue, I will present a mathematical model that combines life history and metabolic theories to yield quantitative predictions for brain life history evolution given a chosen set of hypotheses. The model assumes that some of the brain’s energetic expense is due to learning and memory of skills. I will show predictions arising from the model applied to humans under a baseline setting (“me-vs-nature”), namely when the individual uses her skills to extract energy from the environment without social interactions except with her mother. The model shows that this baseline setting is enough to generate major human life stages (childhood, adolescence, and adulthood) with proper timing while producing adult body and brain mass of ancient human scale. The model also finds that adult skill number is proportional to adult brain mass if memory is sufficiently costly, essentially regardless of learning costs. Finally, the model shows that large brains are favored by intermediately challenging environments, moderately effective skills, and metabolically expensive memory. To close, I will talk about the applications of the model that I plan to do here to address sociality.

Mauricio González-Forero is a Marie Curie Fellow here at St Andrews in the School of Biology. His research interests are in evolutionary biology, and use mathematical approaches to address questions related to brain evolution, the evolution of social behavior, and the species problem.

Mauricio González-Forero’s website


(Tuesday) 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm


Dyer's Brae Seminar Room

Dyers Brae, School of Biology, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, Greenside Place, Fife, KY16 9TH, UK


Ellen Garland & Christian, Dyers Brae, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, Fife, KY16 9TH, UK