2nd Annual Lecture | Onur Güntürkün

"Cognition Without Cortex: The Convergent Evolution of Avian and Mammalian Forebrains"

Onur Güntürkün

Ruhr-Universität Bochum, GER

"Cognition Without Cortex: The Convergent Evolution of Avian and Mammalian Forebrains"

About the talk

In Neuroscience, we grew up assuming that higher cognitive operations depend on the cortex. But is that true? There are ways of testing this, since vertebrates, like birds, have no cortex. Birds represent an equally successful vertebrate class and a vast literature on avian cognitive skills testifies that birds are able to generate the same set of cognitive operations as mammals. Especially corvids reach similar levels of performance as apes in cognitive experiments. However, birds and mammals differ substantially with regard to the organization of their forebrains with birds lacking a cortex-like lamination. I will argue that: 1) lamination is no prerequisite for higher cognitive processes (“at the macro-level, function goes before form”); 2) advances in cognitive operations in mammals and birds go along with an allometric increase of associative and striatal volumes (“cognitive evolution usually operates at the neural quantity level”); 3) Connectional patterns are equal between birds and mammals (different brain organizations do not prevent equal connectivity), 4) despite vastly different forebrain organizations, both mammals and birds convergently developed a ‘prefrontal’ area for their executive functions (“at the micro-level, degrees of freedom to create different neural architectures for specific functions are very small”).

About the speaker

Prof. Dr. Onur Güntürkün received his diploma in psychology in 1980 at the University of Bochum. Between 1980 and 1980 Prof. Güntürkün conducted research on his PhD-project at the Animal Psychology Laboratory of the University of Bochum, in 1984 he gained his PhD ‘summa cum laude’. As a post-doc researcher, Prof. Dr. Güntürkün became a fellow at Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris as well as at the University of California at San Diego (USA). In 1992, Prof. Dr. Güntürkün completed his habilitation at the University of Konstanz. In the following year, he was appointed professor for biological psychology at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum. Prof. Dr. Güntürkün received many awards; in addition the University of Istanbul awarded him an honorary doctorate to highlight his accomplishments in cognitive neuroscience and his efforts in strengthening the academic bonds between Germany and Turkey.

Poster Session

Afterwards there will be a reception combined with a poster session presenting all current projects at the Cognitive Science Research Platform and PhD Cognition and Communication (COGCOM).


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