Neuroecology – History, Methods and Insights

Katja Reinhard

Amount of frontal teaching:
15 hours

Neuroecology is the study of how the structure and function of the brain has adapted to specific niches. When animals move into a new habitat, the different evolutionary pressure of that environment may favour changes in appearance and behaviour. Neuroecologists aim to understand neural circuitry by studying how the brain of animals is built to allow for those niche-specific behaviours. This course will provide an introduction to the history of Neuroecology, the methods used to study behaviour and the brain in parallel, and the main insights the science community has gained from this field.


  1.  Definition and history of neuroecology: To start, I will provide an overview of when neurocology started and how it is different from other neuroscience and behaviour fields.
  2. Methods to study behaviour: I will give an introduction into the types of behaviours neuroecologists would study. This is followed by an overview of the methods used to analyse behaviour. We will then discuss behaviours and applied methods in a journal club.
  3. Methods to study the brain: After an introduction to methods that allow us to study the brain in behaving animals (electrophysiology, imaging,...) and techniques to detect changes in brain structure (viral tracing, antibody stainings,...), we will discuss specific applications in a journal club.
  4. Neuroecology vs model organisms: In the final block, I will introduce model organisms in neuroscience. We will then discuss and contrast the use and value of model organisms and ecological approaches.

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