Massive Redeployment and the Evolution of Cognition

Part of understanding the functional organization of the brain is understanding how it evolved. This talk presents evidence suggesting that while the brain may have originally emerged as an organ with functionally dedicated regions, the creative re-use of these regions has played a significant role in its evolutionary development. This would parallel the evolution of other capabilities wherein existing structures, evolved for other purposes, are re-used and built upon in the course of continuing evolutionary development (“exaptation”: Gould & Vrba 1982). There is psychological support for exaptation in cognition (e.g. Cosmides 1989), theoretical reason to expect it (Anderson 2003; in press-a; in press-b) and neuroanatomic evidence that the brain evolved by preserving, extending, and combining existing network components, rather than by generating complex structures de novo (Sporns & Kötter 2004). However, there has been little evidence that integrates these perspectives, bringing such an account of the evolution of cognitive function into the realm of cognitive neuroscience (although see, e.g., Barsalou 1999).
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