Indiana University has announced a three-year, $3.2 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation to the Stone Age Institute and IU's Cognitive Science Program in support of human origins research.
The grant will support efforts to examine the prehistoric archaeological record for evidence of human brain expansion; associated behavioral, technological, and adaptive patterns; and the implications for the evolution of human cognition. To that end, the grant will fund three graduate fellowships, the creation of a distinguished visiting scholars program, and experimental research using functional magnetic resonance imaging and fossil brain endocasts, which are casts of fossil skull brain-cases that reveal features of prehistoric brain anatomy.
In addition, the grant will support the institute's collaboration with prehistoric archaeological research projects in Tanzania, the Republic of Georgia, and China, with a portion of the funds supporting science education in those countries, including teacher training, student field trips, and the enhancement of collections and museum exhibits.
"A key component of studying cognitive science, and one that is too often forgotten, is exploring what various aspects of cognition are for — what problems did cognition help our ancestors to solve?" said Peter Todd, provost professor of psychological and brain sciences and director of the Cognitive Science Program. "This grant lets us do exactly that, uncovering the evolved cognitive mechanisms that help us tackle central human problems including making tools, constructing sentences, finding information and learning from experts."