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The Domesticated Brain: Phenotypic Variability and Adaptive Specializations


The study of domestic species serves as a fertile testing ground to evaluate the neurobiological effect of strong artificial selection on the brain. Using a phylogenetically informed approach we have combined imaging, molecular and histological methodology to look at species specific variation in the brains of domestic artiodactyls and canids. Our collaborators include: Drs. Cheuk Tang, Patrick Hof (Icahn School of Medicine, Mt. Sinai), Paul Manger (University of Witwatersrand), James Sacco (Drake University), Chet Sherwood (George Washington University), Mary Ann Raghanti (Kent State University), Clare Rusbridge, Janice Koler-Matznik; Nicole Shumate (Paws & Effect), Kacia Cain (DMPS), Etsuro Uemura (ISU), and Heather Greenlee (ISU). This work has been funded in part by grants from Des Moines University, Iowa Science Foundation and the Verizon Foundation.


Select Publications:

Spocter, M.A., Uddin, A., Ng, J., Wong, E., Wang, V.X., Tang, C., Wicinski, B., Haas, J., Bitterman, K., Raghanti, M.R.,Dunn, R., Hof, P.R., Sherwood, C.C., Jovanovik, J., Rusbridge, C., & Manger, P.R (2018). Scaling of the corpus callosum in wild and domestic canids: Insights into the domesticated brain. Journal of Comparative Neurology 526(15):2341-2359. -link

Jacobs, B., Garcia, M.E., Shea-Shumsky, N.B., Tennison, M.E., Sloan, L., Warling, A., Schall, M., Bull, A.J., Raghanti, M.A., Lewandowski, A.H., Wicinski, B., Chui, HK., Bertelsen, MF., Walsh, T., Bhagwandin, A., Spocter MA., Hof, PR., Sherwood, CC & Manger, PR (2018). Comparative morphology of gigantopyramidal neurons in primary motor cortex across mammals. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 526:496-536. -link

The Neuropil Space - Interspecific Variation & Evolution


This project is aimed at quantifying interspecific variation in the neuropil space and its functional correlates. The neuropil is an important component of the cortical column as it is the region where synaptic connections are formed.This work is funded in part by grants from Des Moines University (IOER-R&G), Kemin Industries and the Iowa Science Foundation.

Select Publications:

Spocter, M.A., Fairbanks, J., Locey, L., Nguyen, A., Bitterman, K., Dunn, R., Sherwood, C.C., Geletta, S., Dell, L.A., Patzke, N & Manger, P.R (2018). Neuropil distribution in the anterior cingulate and occipital cortex of artiodactyls. Anatomical Record (Hoboken), 301:1871–1881. -link

Spocter, M.A., Raghanti, M.A., Butti, C., Hof, P.R., & Sherwood, C.C. (2015). The Minicolumn in a Comparative Context. In: Casanova, M & Opris, I (eds.) Recent Advances on the Modular Organization of the Cortex. Springer Publishing. – link

Spocter, M.A., Hopkins, W.D., Barks, S.K., Bianchi, S., Stimpson, C.D., Fobbs, A.J., Hof, P.R., & Sherwood, C.C. (2012). Neuropil distribution in the cerebral cortex differs between humans and chimpanzees. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 520 (13), 2917-2929., 2012 – link

Specializations of the Elephant and Cetacean Brain


This collaborative research with Dr. Paul Manger is aimed at investigating those unique and/ or shared phenotypic attributes that accompanied the evolution of large brains in elephants and dolphins. Some areas of interest include quantifying the relative expression of calcium binding proteins in the cerebellar cortex of the elephant and exploring the scaling attributes of the amygala and hippocampus in cetaceans. This work is funded in part by a grant from Des Moines University (IOER-R&G).

Select Publications:

Spocter M.A., Patzke N., Manger P.R (2017). Cetacean Brains . In Reference Module in Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Psychology, Elsevier. ISBN 9780128093245. -link

Dell, L.A., Patzke, N., Spocter, M.A., Siegel, J.M., & Manger, P.R (2016). Organization of the sleep related neural systems in the brain of the harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena). Journal of Comparative Neurology, 524(10):1999-2017.-link

Manger, P.R., Spocter, M.A. & Patzke, N. (2013). The evolutions of large brain size in mammals- ‘the Over 700g Club Quartet’. Brain Behavior & Evolution 82 (1), 68-78., 2013 – link

© 2011 by Evolving Brain Laboratory (EBL)

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