The Evolution of Developmental Systems Required for Intelligent Behavior:
An Interdisciplinary Symposium

August 12 - 15, 2008
Chicago Marriott at Medical District / UIC
625 South Ashland Avenue
Chicago, Illinois

Howard Buhse, UIC; John Allman, Cal Tech; Alan Smith, University of Utah

Sponsored by: College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Department of Biological Sciences, Honors College, Laboratory of Integrative Neuroscience (LIN), Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research

In his revolutionary work, The Origin of Species, Charles Darwin recognized that natural selection was not the only the mechanism for explaining biological evolution. It was not until the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth that the science of genetics developed, making it possible to begin to link the genotype to the phenotype. However, Darwin had already recognized the importance of development for evolution: "...developing forms of life would be central to the study of evolution," Darwin's prescient genius by the end of the twentieth and start of the twenty-first century is now finding greater support. Today, we are in the middle of a major expansion of the theory of evolution based upon both genomics and the development of the organism. It is becoming clear to many biologists that we need to rethink evolutionary theory in light of both genomics and embryogenesis to create a more adequate theory.

Our symposium has two fundamental aims: first, to bring together biologists already working in the field of Evo-Devo to formulate a more adequate theoretical framework to integrate the results of recent experimental work on developmental systems of organisms; second, to relate these findings and concepts to neuroscience to create a conceptual framework for understanding the biological basis for the rise of intelligent behavior in evolution. The symposium will take place over four days. The first part will concentrate on the basic experimental work and theoretical framework for understanding contemporary evolution of development systems. The second part will focus on specific aspects of the evolution of the developmental system of an organism implicated in the evolution of the visual system, e.g., Pax6 gene, and the FOXP2 gene implicated in specific speech defects in humans. This second part will also include theoreticians and bio-philosphers who will address the problem of both biological and non-biological mechanisms (e.g., socio-cultural) required for intelligent behavior. Throughout the entire symposium, there will be expensive time for discussion; indeed, we anticipate that fifty perfect of the symposium will be devoted to discussion. The final afternoon will be devoted to producing a list of results of the conference to be critically examined by all participants.

All participants will be asked to submit a one-page abstract of their talk one month before the conference to be posted online for other participants to read before attending the symposium. Each participant will be expected to produce an article for publication based upon their presentation and discussions at the conference. The organizers will be responsible for securing a publisher and editing the articles.

Recent work in Evo-Devo has made clear that a fully developed theory of evolution must take into consideration embryological systems of development as well as natural selection and genetics. This interdisciplinary symposium brings together evolutionary biologists, developmental biologists, neuroscientists, psychologists, and bio-philosophers to work on the problem of integrating Evo-Devo with the latest findings in Neuroscience and Psychology. The goal of this symposium is to formulate an overview of the evolution of developmental systems that have given rise to intelligent behavior based on cellular and molecular mechanisms in nervous systems for learning and memory.

The symposium will take place over four complete days of presentations and discussions. During the first three days, four speakers will present 50-minute talks followed by 30-minute discussions. At the end of each of the three days, a one hour discussion for all participants will be held. On the fourth day, two speakers will present in the morning and the afternoon with be devoted to open discussion and presentation of summaries of the symposium by the organizers.

The symposium will be open to invited scientists wishing to attend. We wish to invite approximately 40 other attendees, including graduate students, postdoctoral students, and established scientists and bio-philosophers. Those not presenting who wish to attend need to fill out an application requesting attendance, which will be reviewed by the organizers. Decisions regarding acceptance will be made by July 25th.

Walter Gehring, Garland Allen, John AllmanTerrence Deacon, Yadin Dudai, Dave Featherstone, Evelyn Keller, Bruce Lahn, Katherine Nelson, Wolff-Michael Roth, Marya Schechtman, Alcino Silva, Alan Smith