Seminar: Building the case for comparative neurobiology | 6th June 12-1pm

Phylogenetic tree: brains

Jason Robert, School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University

Rodents are overrepresented in neuroscience research, and yet substantial variation in cortical organization (for instance) amongst rodents (for instance) is almost never acknowledged. But the call for a comparative approach in the neurosciences has largely fallen on indifferent ears. Why might this be the case? Given available techniques and economic and ethical considerations, mice and rats are typically seen as the most viable experimental subjects. This is so even when the experimental question of interest makes no sense to ask of mice or rats.

A comparative neurobiology requires research with a broader swathe of animals within rodentia but also beyond this order. Of course, neuroscientists work as well with worms, fishes, flies, birds, cats, monkeys, too. Some work even with humans. Even so, comparative approaches remain exceptional rather than du jour, taking a distant second to animal-model based approaches where the experimental animal is supposed to stand-in for other animals (including humans). And even where comparative approaches are evident, too often the comparisons are superficial and designed to show similarity rather than franker and designed to reveal what’s really going on.

These are strong claims. In this presentation, I attempt to justify them, articulate a rationale, and lay out desiderata for a genuinely comparative neurobiology.

When: Thursday, 6th June, 12-1 PM

Where: Napier 209 Lecture Theatre, North Terrace Campus, University of Adelaide

Jason Robert
Jason Robert, ASU

Jason Robert holds the Lincoln Chair in Ethics and is director of the Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics at Arizona State University. He is also Dean's Distinguished Professor in the Life Sciences.

A bioethicist and philosopher of biology, Professor Robert's research and teaching is animated by the question of what is 'good' science - that is, science that is both efficacious and ethical. His approach is to work against reductionist tendencies in biological/biomedical science, as well as in ethics, to surface and explore the profound complexity of our biological and moral systems. He has published widely on topics such as as stem cell biology, translational research, genetics, evolutionary and developmental biology, and genetics, with a particular focus on the neurosciences.

Tagged in seminar, comparative biology, neuroscience, model organisms