Evolutionary Neuroscience


Digital rendering of primate brains in skulls


The Laboratory for Evolutionary Neuroscience is dedicated to studying the evolution of brain structure and molecular function in primates and other mammals. Our research interests center on comparative investigations of brains from a diversity of species, including humans, to make discoveries about the evolution of behavior, communication abilities, cognition, vulnerability to neurodegenerative illnesses, and more.

The lab is also the biobank repository of the National Chimpanzee Brain Resource, which serves to facilitate research advancement through the collection and distribution of chimpanzee neuroimaging scans, postmortem brain samples, atlas tools, and related genetic, health, life history, and behavioral datasets. 



Research Interests

Research in this lab explores how brains differ among species and how this variation is correlated with behavior, shaped by the rules of developmental biology, impacted by experience, and encoded in the genome. In particular, research compares the anatomy and molecular function of the human brain to that of the great apes: chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, and orangutans. The lab also investigates brain structure changes across the lifespan among primate species. Researchers in the lab are mapping the evolution of brain structure and examining the correlation between brain size and gene expression, energetics, neuronal morphology, and cell type distributions.


Select Publications

C.C. Sherwood, S.B. Miller, M. Karl, C.D. Stimpson, K.A. Phillips, B. Jacobs, P.R. Hof, M.A. Raghanti, and J.B. Smaers (2020) Invariant synapse density and neuronal connectivity scaling in primate neocortical evolution. Cerebral Cortex. 30: 5604-5615.

N. Staes, J.B. Smaers, A.E. Kunkle, W.D. Hopkins, B.J. Bradley, and C.C. Sherwood. (2019) Evolutionary divergence of neuroanatomical organization and related genes in chimpanzees and bonobos. Cortex. 118:154-164.

C.C. Sherwood and A. Gómez-Robles. (2017) Brain plasticity and human evolution. Annual Review of Anthropology. 46:399-419.

M.K. Edler, C.C. Sherwood, R.S. Meindl, W.D. Hopkins, J.J. Ely, J.M Erwin, E.J. Mufson, P.R. Hof, and M.A. Raghanti (2017) Aged chimpanzees exhibit pathologic hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease. Neurobiology of Aging. 59:107-120.

For more publications visit Dr. Chet Sherwood's Google Scholar page.


Lab Researchers

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Molly Karl

Masters Student


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Gwyneth McNiff

Masters Student

Ishan Abdullah

Ishan Abdullah

Undergraduate Student


Former Lab Members

  • Sarah Barks - Director, STEM Career Community, Grinnell College
  • Amy Bauernfeind - Associate Professor, Department of Neuroscience, Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis
  • Serena Bianchi - Editor, SFARI, Autism BrainNet, Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative
  • Christine Charvet - Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, Delaware State University
  • Tetyana Duka - Research Scientist, The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences
  • Aida Gómez-Robles - Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, University College London
  • Alexandra de Sousa - Senior Lecturer, Department of Psychology, Bath Spa University
  • Fenna Krienen - Postdoctoral Scientist, Department of Genetics, Harvard University
  • Daniel Miller - Postdoctoral Scientist, Department of Psychology, The University of Western Ontario
  • Gerard Muntané Medina - Postdoctoral Scientist, Institut D’Investigacio Sanitaria, Pere Virgili, Spain
  • Mary Ann Raghanti - Professor, Department of Anthropology, Kent State University
  • Laura Reyes - Scientific Program Analyst, National Institute of Mental Health, National Institutes of Health
  • Natalie Schenker-Ahmed - Senior Research Scientist, Human Longevity, Inc.
  • Muhammad Spocter - Associate Professor, Department of Anatomy, Des Moines University
  • Nicky Staes - Postdoctoral Scientist, Centre for Research and Conservation, Royal Zoological Society of Antwerp & Behavioural Ecology and Ecophysiology Group, University of Antwerp
  • Cheryl Stimpson - Senior Research Associate, The Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine
  • Andrey Verendeev - Science Writer, BrainPOP