The origins of order in the development and the evolution of behaviour

April 19-21th, Nencki Institute, Warsaw, Poland

Behaviour, though often flexible and variable, is also stable and predictable.

Migratory birds in every generation make the same travel between distant lands, finding exactly the same spot without previous experience. Different species of Peromyscus dig burrows that are highly stereotyped within a species, but different between species. Many humans behave in a similar way in similar circumstances. Where does this order come from?

The answer for many researchers is genes: they specify a heritable programme that ensures that behaviours develop similarly in every generation and in every member of a species. Others, though, claim that the stability of behaviour is achieved by the interaction of organismal and environmental factors. 

The goal of our symposium is to discuss the different ways in which animal behaviour can be canalized. We want to talk about genetic influences on behaviour, the way the environment shapes behavioural development and the newest computational methods that allow us to model the evolution and the development of behaviour. 

The questions we would like us – among others – are:

  • Is instinct a useful term in modern behavioral neuroscience?
  • How do genes influence and constrain behavioural development?
  • How environment and morphology can canalize behavioural development?
  • What factors contribute to the stability of behaviours across generations?
  • How can we simulate the constraints that shape the development and the evolution of behaviour?

The symposium will be organized on April 19-21 2023 at Nencki Institute, Poland. It will be organized as a slow symposium, with three 2- hour talks daily, with a plenty of space for discussion and dissection of data and ideas. The symposium fee is EUR 160.