Dr. Erin Hecht
My lab’s research asks how brains change in response to selection pressure on behavior, and how brains acquire heritable adaptations for complex, learned behaviors. Comparisons between modern humans and our living primate relatives provide a way to address this question in the context of our own evolutionary history. In addition, we can learn about general mechanisms of brain-behavior evolution by studying “unnatural selection” in intentionally-bred animals. Current areas of focus include neural and behavioral variation in domestic dog breeds and domesticated foxes, neural plasticity in humans during the acquisition of skills for which we have innate predispositions, and the relationship between individual variation in initial brain anatomy and predisposition to acquire new learned skills. The lab’s methods include structural and functional neuroimaging in living humans and dogs, and fixed brains of various species; histology; and behavior measurements.