Institute of Neuroscience

Staff Profile

Dr Tom Smulders

Senior Lecturer



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



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


Roles and Responsibilities

2016-present Chair of the Equality and Diversity Committee of the Institute of Neuroscience

2014-present Director of the Centre for Behaviour and Evolution

2008-2015 Chair of the Seminar Committee of the Institute of Neuroscience

Esteem Indicators

2016-2017: Guest Editor of a Special Issue on "The Hippocampus: Questions of Homology" in Brain, Behaviour and Evolution

2012-2014: Grant panel member of the FWO (Flanders, Belgium)-Biodiversity & Ecology (Bio3)

2010-present: Editorial Board of Brain, Behaviour & Evolution

2008-present: 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

2008-2013 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)

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
Experimental Psychology 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.



Undergraduate Teaching

PSY2007 Biological Psychology: Sex, Drugs, Rhythms and Blues

PSY2011 Methods in Psychology 2B - using statistics for testing hypotheses

PSY2015 Introduction to Professional Skills

PSY3097 Undergraduate Research Projects in Psychology

Postgraduate Teaching

MMB8003 The Biological Study of Behaviour

MMB8043 Comparative Cognition