Dr Tom Smulders
Senior Lecturer


Tom Smulders was born near Antwerp, Belgium and grew up in Brecht, Belgium.

Roles and Responsibilities

2006-2008 Stage 2 Director for the BSc in Psychology

2008-present Chair of the Seminar Committee of the Institute of Neuroscience

2003-present Coordinator Psychology Seminar Series


2003-2005 Post-Graduate Certificate in Academic Practice, Newcastle University, UK

1992-1998 Ph.D. in Biopsychology at Cornell University, USA. (Supervisor: Prof. Timothy J. DeVoogd)

1990-1992 MSc in Zoology at Antwerp University, Belgium

1988-1990 BSc in Biology at Antwerp University, Belgium

Previous Positions

2000-2002 Post-doctoral researcher, Department of Neurobiology, Duke University Medical Center, USA (Supervisor: Prof. Erich D. Jarvis)

1998-2000 Post-doctoral researcher, Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, USA (Supervisor: Prof. Robert E. Hampson)


Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour
British Neuroscience Association
British Psychological Society
International Society for Neuroethology
J.B. Johnston Club (Comparative Vertebrate Neuroanatomy)
Natural History Society of Northumbria


Fluent in spoken and written Dutch
Fluent in spoken and written English
Fluent in spoken and written French
Reading and conversational skills in German
Notions of Italian and Latin

Informal Interests

Ballroom Dancing; Science Fiction and Fantasy

Research Interests

My research focuses on different aspects of spatial information processing, specifically in food-hoarding animals. In the spirit of true NeuroEcology, I approach this topic from both an ultimate (evolutionary, ecological) and a proximate (behavioural and neural mechanisms) point of view.

From the ultimate point of view, I ask questions about the evolutionary origin of food-hoarding behaviour, how it is maintained in a population and which mechanisms have evolved to make it adaptive.

From the proximate point of view, I study both behavioural and neural mechanisms involved in food hoarding. Behaviourally, our group is interested in the strategies employed by food-hoarding birds to prevent loss of caches and to maximize their own benefits, which seem to rely for a great deal (but not exclusively) on memory for individual cache locations. Neurobiologically, we are interested in the neural basis of this memory, using a range of techniques, from purely anatomical measures (cell numbers, neurogenesis, gene expression patterns), through interference with function (permanent and temporary inactivation) to (in the future) electrophysiological recording from the relevant brain areas.

Other Expertise

Bird song and the neural basis of hearing and singing in birds.

Current Work

For more information, see my web page.

Esteem Indicators

2008- Reviewing Editor of Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience

2008-2009 Guest Editor of a Special Issue on “Integrating Ecology, Psychology, and Neurobiology Within a Food-hoarding Paradigm” in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B

2008-2009 Guest Editor of a Special Feature on “Brain Evolution” in Biology Letters

2008-2010 Editorial Board of Biology Letters (Royal Society of London)

2007 Invited participant in the INCF Workshop on Neuroanatomical Nomenclature and Taxonomy

2006-present Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

1992-1993 Philips Fellow of the Belgian American Educational Foundation (BAEF)


2009 Undergraduate Summer Research Scholarship ASAB: Evaluation of the rate of hippocampal neuronal death and its relevance to seasonal changes in memory use by willow tits (Poecile montanus) £1,520

2009-2013 DEFRA: Quantifying the subjective state of feed restricted broiler chickens using behavioural and neurochemical measures: £706,792 (Co-investigator in collaboration with Scottish Agricultural College and Roslin Institute)

2008 Royal Society Conference Grant: £1,285

2008-2009 BBSRC Research Equipment Initiative grant: Climate-controlled chambers for the study of physiology and behaviour £146,000.

2007 Undergraduate Summer Research Scholarship Nuffield Foundation: A quantitative comparison of the hippocampal formation of storing and non-storing bird species. £1,360

2006 Undergraduate Summer Research Scholarship Nuffield Foundation: Examining the incorporation of new neurons in adult brains. £1,240

2006-2010 EPSRC Joint Project Grant: CARMEN (Code Analysis, Repository and Modeling for e-Neuroscience). £3,800,000 (co-investigator in multi-university collaboration)

2005-2006 Catherine Cookson Foundation Grant: What is the function of new brain cells? £4,000

2005-2008 BBSRC Research Grant: Natural regulation of adult neuronal recruitment: comparing food-hoarding and non-hoarding songbirds. £307,624

2005-2008 BBSRC Strategic Studentship: Encoding of Episodic-like Memory in the Hippocampus of Food-hoarding Birds. £46,000

2005 Undergraduate Summer Research Scholarship Nuffield Foundation: Olfaction in magpies. £1,400

2004-2005 BBSRC Research Grant: Neural Substrates for Spatial and Non-Spatial Memory in Food-Storing Birds (collaboration with Dr. S. Healy, Univ. of Edinburgh): £134,845

2003-2006 BBSRC Committee Studentship: Cognitive Strategies for Efficient Cache Distribution in Scatter-Hoarding Birds. £39,120

Undergraduate Teaching

PSY2007 Biological Psychology: Sex, Drugs, Rhythms and Blues
PSY2012 Practice of Psychology
PSY3096-PSY3097 Undergraduate Research Projects in Psychology
MSM3097 Undergraduate Research Projects in Zoology

Postgraduate Teaching

NEU8002 Cognitive Neuroscience