Since Darwin we have known that evolution has shaped all organisms and that biological organs--including the brain and the highly crafted animal nervous system--are subject to the pressures of natural and sexual selection. It is only relatively recently, however, that the cognitive neurosciences have begun to apply evolutionary theory and methods to the study of brain and behavior. This landmark reference documents and defines the emerging field of evolutionary cognitive neuroscience. Chapters by leading researchers demonstrate the power of the evolutionary perspective to yield new data, theory, and insights on the evolution and functional modularity of the brain.
Evolutionary cognitive neuroscience covers all areas of cognitive neuroscience, from nonhuman brain-behavior relationships to human cognition and consciousness, and each section of Evolutionary Cognitive Neuroscience addresses a different adaptive problem. After an introductory section that outlines the basic tenets of both theory and methodology of an evolutionarily informed cognitive neuroscience, the book treats neuroanatomy from ontogenetic and phylogenetic perspectives and explores reproduction and kin recognition, spatial cognition and language, and self-awareness and social cognition. Notable findings include a theory to explain the extended ontogenetic and brain development periods of big-brained organisms, fMRI research on the neural correlates of romantic attraction, an evolutionary view of sex differences in spatial cognition, a theory of language evolution that draws on recent research on mirror neurons, and evidence for a rudimentary theory of mind in nonhuman primates. A final section discusses the ethical implications of evolutionary cognitive neuroscience and the future of the field.