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Jasper Elan Hunt


DPhil Student

  • Clarendon Scholar
  • Wellcome Trust PhD Student
  • Former President, Oxford University Cortex Club

My Research

The way a brain is organised stems from a combination of evolutionary and environmental influences. I aim to understand how these factors have shaped how different vertebrate brains are organised. Specifically, I am interested in how ecological niche and evolutionary adaptations have shaped the organisation of the visual system.

To study visual system organisation, I have developed the use of an algorithm called "non-negative matrix factorisation" (NMF) to reconstruct white matter tracts in understudied primate brains (Hunt et al., 2023) in a data-driven fashion. I then used statistical approaches to compare these data-derived tracts, finding which tracts differ between species and quantifying the magnitude of these differences.

Using our knowledge of phylogenetic relationships and different animals’ lifestyles, I am currently extending this analysis and testing further hypotheses about which tracts diverged at different points in evolutionary history, and which adaptations may be unique to different ecological niches and evolutionary branches.

Another branch of my work relates to the use and reexamination of existing data for the purpose of studying nervous system evolution and comparative neuroanatomy. This work has recently led to a theory paper (Hunt et al., 2024) on the evolution of retinal waves, a form of spontaneous activity in early visual development. In this work, my coauthors and I reexamine literature from across the vertebrate lineage to propose a novel theory of the evolution of retinal waves.

Altogether, my research is yielding: (i) methodological advances in the analysis of imaging data from understudied brains; (ii) insights into the evolution of the primate visual system and how different primates are adapted to their environments; and (iii) new theories regarding the evolution of sensory systems.


Hunt, J.E., Warrington, S., Roumazeilles, L., Molnár, Z, & Mars, R.B. (2023, September 19-22). A data-driven parcellation to investigate frontotemporal connections across primate species [Conference presentation]. International Comparative Brain Meeting, Paris, France.

Hunt, J.E., Pratt, K.G., & Molnár, Z. (2024). Ocular necessities: A neuroethological perspective on vertebrate visual development. Brain, Behavior and Evolution. doi: 10.1159/000536035

About me

  • MSc with Merit, Neuroscience, University of Oxford, 2020
  • BSc with Honors, Psychology and Philosophy, University of Wyoming, 2019

My Masters research, in the labs of Adam Packer and Ana Domingos, investigated axonal imaging and quantification techniques. In the Packer lab, my project focused on imaging claustral axons using multi-photon microscopy in vivo. In the Domingos lab, my project focused on quantifying characteristics of sympathetic axons in cleared white adipose tissue.

My Bachelors research, in the lab of Kara Pratt, answered questions about the neural architecture that enables larval amphibians to have colour vision and execute innate, adaptive, colour-driven behaviours from the first days of life. This work resulted in the following publications:

  • Bruno, J. R., Udoh, U. G., Landen, J. G., Osborn, P. O., Asher, C. J., Hunt, J. E., & Pratt, K. G. (2022). A circadian-dependent preference for light displayed by Xenopus tadpoles is modulated by serotonin. iScience25(11). doi: 10.1016/j.isci.2022.105375
  • Hunt, J. E., Bruno, J. R., & Pratt, K. G. (2020). An Innate Color Preference Displayed by Xenopus Tadpoles Is Persistent and Requires the Tegmentum. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 14. doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2020.00071