Centre for Behaviour and Evolution

Staff Profile

Dr Ben Wilson

Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellow


Benjamin Wilson is a Sir Henry Wellcome Research Fellow at the Institute of Neuroscience, Newcastle University. Benjamin’s research focuses on understanding the neurobiological systems that support language and the evolution of these brain networks, with the goal of developing animal models in which language-related processes might be better understood. His research combines sequence processing tasks and comparative neuroimaging techniques to investigate the extent to which cognitive abilities underpinning language in humans might be shared by nonhuman primates, and how far these abilities are supported by evolutionarily conserved networks of brain areas.

Area of expertise

  • Comparative neuroscience
  • Artificial grammar learning and sequence processing
  • Language evolution

Current Role

  • 2016 - present, Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellow, Institute of Neuroscience, Newcastle University


  • 2009-2013, PhD, Neuroscience, Newcastle University
  • 2007-2008, MSc, Evolutionary Psychology, University of Liverpool
  • 2002-2005, BSc, Psychology, University of York

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My research focuses on understanding the neurobiological systems that supports language, and the evolution of these brain networks. I use a variety of comparative behavioural and neuroimaging techniques to assess how humans and nonhuman primates respond to stimuli designed to emulate certain features of language and how their brains process this information.

I have previously used natural response and eye-tracking 'artificial grammar learning’ experiments to directly compare the sequence learning abilities of different primate species (humans, Rhesus macaques, common marmosets). I recently performed the first comparative fMRI experiment in humans and monkeys using artificial language stimuli, and identified functionally homologous, evolutionarily conserved regions of the frontal cortex in both species.

My current work focuses on combining insights from neuroimaging studies of the human language network with studies of basic auditory cognition in humans and other primates, with the goal of better understanding the cognitive mechanisms involved in language-related processes. I am specifically interested in how the brain encodes temporal information and processes the relationships between sounds in a sequence over time, such as how we temporally link phonemes into words and words into phrases or sentences. Understanding these processes could both provide insights into the  evolution of human linguistic abilities and also represents a critical step in the development of an animal model system in which the neurobiological underpinnings of these conserved processes could be studied at a level of detail rarely possible in humans.