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Lennart Verhagen


Postdoctoral Research Associate

Cognitive and Comparative Neuroscience

I'm interested to learn what makes our brain a human brain, and not an ape or a monkey brain. I divide my attention between anatomical and functional studies of the primate brain. To compare the anatomy of our brains to that of other primate species I use whole brain connectivity analyses, such as diffusion MRI tractography and resting-state fMRI. It turns out that no matter how special we feel we share the same fundamental neural architecture with our primate nieces and nephews. It seems the anatomical differences between our brains' organisation are more a matter of gradual degree than a punctuated jump. Yet, at the same time, our behavioural abilities are in fact strikingly distinct. Accordingly, I study how humans can quickly infer abstract relations between objects in our environment, where other primates need hundreds of trials to learn. I follow the notion that monkeys can learn similarly complex relations if they are based on a physical connection in space or time. Humans seem to have attention selection mechanisms that can overcome physical separation and help us to isolate the relevant objects and relations from an infinite set of possibilities.

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