"Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose. "
--Zora Neale Hurston
Study of the brain and its regions provides insight into how animals interact with their environment and each other. Unfortunately for us, dinosaur brains did not fossilize along with the rest of the skull. So, our research focuses on developing and applying the best possible approaches to modeling and studying dinosaur brains, as well as addressing questions of dinosaur brain evolution and ontogeny. We use evidence from fossilized brain cavities, digital brain endocasts, and modern animal brain anatomy to infer brain shape and size in dinosaurs. Dinosaur brain data are then used to probe hypotheses of evolution, ontogeny, and behavior. Previous and current studies include assessment of evolutionary rates for brain regions, a re-evaluation of Encephalization Quotients for dinosaurs, and further exploration of brain and brain region gross anatomy in the modern relatives of dinosaurs.
IODINE STAINING FOR CT
Our work relies heavily on 3D visualization and study of interactions between soft tissues (muscles, nerves, blood vessels, etc.) of the head with their associated hard tissues. As part of our effort to visualize these interactions, we've refined protocols that use iodine, a known contrast agent in radiology, to differentiate between life-like soft and hard tissues, as well as among various soft tissue types on CT scans. The protocols we've developed have produced visualizations of intracranial tissues of extant archosaurs. Such visualizations inform inferences of dinosaur soft/hard tissue interactions and enhance my understanding of where and how the brain and its surrounding tissues interact with the bony brain cavity. Learn more at www.diceCT.com.