Communication is an inherently interactive process involving the active exchange of information between conspecifics. The aim of this line of research is to elucidate the co-evolution of brain and behavior in the vocal communication system of common marmosets. We combine field studies in Northeastern Brazil of the species in its natural habitat with detailed experimental behavioral and neurophysiological experiments in the laboratory. Neurophysiological studies are performed on freely-moving animals as they engage in their natural communication behaviors. This unique, broadly integrative approach provides a novel platform in which to examine the complex interplay between the social, ecological and neurobiological factors that contribute to primate vocal communication.
Navigating Social Space
Primates are most distinguished from other animals by the sophistication of our social networks and the dynamic nature of the models we develop to effectively navigate these landscapes. At the heart of this challenge is the representing both where individuals are in the environment relative to one’s own position and who they are in the social network. This line of research is currently focused on the role of medial temporal lobe structures for integrating these pivotal threads of information. Ongoing experiments in this line of work are aimed at explicating the neural basis of spatial encoding in the primate hippocampus and entorhinal cortex, as well as how these structures also represent pivotal social information about conspecifics.
As active explorers of the world, vision is critical for representing the environment and provides necessary feedback for the various self-generated actions that unfold as we navigate (e.g. locomotion, reaching, etc). Despite this facet of our natural behavior, nearly everything known about primate vision is based on head-restrained subjects looking at static displays. This line of work seeks to explore natural, active vision by examining marmoset monkeys as they hunt insects. Marmosets are prolific hunters in the wild, offering the unique opportunity to leverage this prey-pursuit behavior to examine the perceptual and sensory-motor processes that occur in primate visual system during more the naturalistic conditions that drove the evolution of our brains.