The John Allman Lab

In our laboratory, we are mainly concerned with brain evolution as revealed through the comparative study of brain structure and with the neural mechanisms of economic and social decision-making.

These two interests come together in our investigation of the Von Economo (spindle) neurons of anterior cingulate and fronto-insular cortex. These neurons are present only in humans and apes and are much more abundant in humans than in apes; they thus represent a recent development in hominoid evolution. The Von Economo cells emerge mainly after birth and are 30% more abundant in the right hemisphere. We think that the Von Economo neurons are part of the circuitry responsible for rapid intuitive choice in complex social situations. We are also investigating the structure of the brain in another highly social mammal, the African elephant.