Advisory Board

Dr. Lori Marino

The NewScientist article Whales boast the brain cells that “make us human” said

Whales may share our kind of intelligence, researchers say after discovering brain cells previously found only in humans and other primates.
 
They were touted as the brain cells that set humans and the other great apes apart from all other mammals. Now it has been discovered that some whales also have spindle neurons — specialized brain cells that are involved in processing emotions and helping us interact socially.
 
“The discovery of spindle neurons in cetaceans is a stunning example of neuro-anatomical convergence between cetaceans and primates,” says Lori Marino of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, US. “The common ancestor of cetaceans and primates lived over 95 million years ago, and such a highly specific morphological similarity as the finding of spindle cells is clearly due to evolutionary convergence, not shared ancestry,” she says.
 
“This is consistent with a growing body of evidence for parallels between cetaceans and primates in cognitive abilities, behaviour and social ecology.”

Lori Marino, Ph.D. is Senior Lecturer, Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology Program, Emory University, Adjunct Faculty, Department of Psychology, Emory University, Affiliate Faculty, Living Links Center for the Advanced Study of Ape and Human Evolution, and Emory University Research Associate, National Museum of Natural History, The Smithsonian Institution. She is on the Board of Reviewers for The Anatomical Record, and on the Editorial Board for International Journal of Comparative Psychology. She is a member of the Society for Marine Mammalogy, Animal Behavior Society, International Society for Comparative Psychology, and J. B. Johnston Club in Comparative and Evolutionary Neurobiology.
 
Lori authored The Evolution of Intelligence: An Integral Part of SETI and Astrobiology and coauthored Mirror Self-Recognition in the Bottlenose Dolphin: A Case of Cognitive Convergence, The Navigable Atlas of the Dolphin Brain (includes complete series of dolphin MRI images), Origin and evolution of large brains in toothed whales, Bubble ring play of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus): Implications for cognition, Planum temporale asymmetries in great apes as revealed by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and Relative Volume of the Cerebellum in Dolphins and Comparison with Anthropoid Primates. Read her full list of publications!
 
Lori earned a B.A. in Psychology, Biology minor, with Honors in Psychobiology from New York University in 1982, a M.A. in Experimental Psychology from Miami University, Ohio in 1989, and a Ph.D. in Biopsychology from the State University of New York at Albany in 1995. Her thesis was “Brain-behavior relationships in cetaceans and primates: Implications for the evolution of complex intelligence”.
 
Listen to her interview on “Science in Your Life” about intelligence in cetaceans. Listen to her on CBC radio. Read her SETI profile.