Centre for Behaviour and Evolution

Staff Profile

Dr Tom Smulders

Director of Education and Reader in Evolutionary Neuroscience



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

2018-2023Coordinator of the ChickenStress European Training Network

2019-2022 Deputy Theme Lead for the Behavioural Science and Psychology Theme

2016-2019 Chair of the Equality and Diversity Committee of the Institute of Neuroscience

2014-2022 Director of the Centre for Behaviour and Evolution

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

Esteem Indicators

2018: Plenary speaker at the Swedish Animal Welfare meeting

2017: Keynote address at the UFAW International Animal Welfare Symposium

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

2016: Keynote address at the 50th meeting of the International Society for Applied Ethology

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

Google Scholar: Click here.

Informal Interests

Ballroom Dancing; Science Fiction and Fantasy


Research Interests

I am interested in how evolution modifies the brain (or particular brain areas), and how this relates to the behaviours in which these areas are involved. We study this at two levels: macro-evolutionary and micro-evolutionary.

On the macro-evolutionary level, we are interested in how brain areas conserve their function (or converge on similar functions) over deep evolutionary time. In particular, we study the hippocampal formation of birds and mammals, and investigate how two very differently-organized structures (at least at first glance) perform such similar functions. We are also applying what we learn about these similarities to developing novel animal welfare measures.

On a more micro-evolutionary level, we are interested in how brain structures change in closely related species with the evolution of novel behaviours. For this, we compare food-hoarding birds to closely-related non-hoarding birds. We are interested in two aspects of this brain/behaviour system: how did hoarding behaviour evolve and how did spatial memory mechanisms adapt to a food-hoarding life style.



Undergraduate Teaching

PSY2007 Biological Psychology: Sex, Drugs, Rhythms and Blues

PSY3049 Evolution of Brain and Behaviour

PSY3097 Undergraduate Research Projects in Psychology

Postgraduate Teaching

MMB8003 The Biological Study of Behaviour