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WIREs Cogn Sci
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Evo Devo and cognitive science

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Abstract Evo Devo (evolutionary developmental) biology forges a synthesis of evolutionary and developmental processes. Evo Devo is the result of collaborative work of evolutionary and developmental biologists after the discovery of regulatory genes that human beings share with many other animals, including fruit flies, frogs, and rats. Compared to traditional evolutionary biologists, Evo Devo biologists focus on processes underlying the generation of evolutionary novelties, rather than on how natural selection changes gene frequencies in populations and how organisms are adapted to their environment. Evo Devo biologists try to answer questions such as: How do novel structures arise? Which mechanisms facilitate or constrain evolutionary change? In this article we argue that insights from Evo Devo research can contribute to the understanding of the evolution and development of cognition, and of the origin of neurocognitive disorders. We discuss three major Evo Devo topics: modularity, evolvability, and developmental constraints. We argue that each of these topics are relevant for research in cognitive science, and we argue that interdisciplinary research is necessary in order to unravel the evolutionary and developmental mechanisms of cognitive traits and disorders. WIREs Cogni Sci 2011 2 429–440 DOI: 10.1002/wcs.137 This article is categorized under: Cognitive Biology > Evolutionary Roots of Cognition

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