Dr Rogier B Mars



Dr Mars is a comparative and cognitive neuroscientist interested in understanding how different brains are organized.


I am involved in coordination and teaching of brain anatomy and evolutionary neuroscience in the FMRIB graduate program at the Department of Clinical Neurosciences and at the Department of Experimental Psychology.

I am also involved in outreach activities for the general public, mostly focusing on evolutionary neuroscience.


My research aims to understand what it is that makes brains the way they are. Primates, and especially humans, have exceptionally large brains for their body size. Between primates, brains differ in size and in their internal organization. Why is this? We believe that each brain is an adaptation to the particular environment its owner lives in. Differences between brains are the result of deviations from ancestral brains that arose to deal with challenges in the environment.

To study these questions we use two complementary approaches. First, we study how the human brain is organized and works using a range of non-invasive brain imaging techniques, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging and transcranial magnetic stimulation in healthy human volunteers. We investigate how our brain achieves feats such as language, tool use, and social decision making.

Second, we use magnetic resonance imaging to compare the organization of different brains. We scan the brains from deceased animals to study the size, location, and connections of different brain regions and compare these between species. Using these techniques we can find out what the common organization plan of the primate brain is and how each animal has differed from that plan in its own way.


Key publications: (please see www.neuroecologylab.org for the most recent list)

Mars RB, Eichert N, Jbabdi S, Verhagen L, Rushworth MFS (in press) Connectivity and the search for specializations in the language-capable brain. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences

Mars RB, Passingham RE, Neubert FX, Verhagen L, Sallet J (2017) Evolutionary specializations of human association cortex. In: Kaas JH (Eds.) Evolution of Nervous Systems (2nd edition, volume 4), pp. 185-200. Oxford: Elsevier

Tavor I, Parker Jones O, Mars RB, Smith SM, Behrens TE, Jbabdi S (2016) Task-free MRI predicts individual differences in brain activity during task performance. Science 216-220

Mars RB, Verhagen L, Gladwin TE, Neubert FX, Sallet J, Rushworth MFS (2016) Comparing brains by matching connectivity profiles. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews 60:90-97

Mars RB, Sallet J, Neubert FX, Rushworth MFS (2013) Connectivity profiles reveal the relationship between brain areas for social cognition in human and monkey temporoparietal cortex. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 110:10806-10811

Kolling N, Behrens TEJ, Mars RB, Rushworth MFS (2012) Neural mechanisms of foraging. Science 336:95-98

Mars RB, Jbabdi S, Sallet J, O’Reilly JX, Croxson PL, Olivier E, Noonan MP, Bergmann C, Mitchell AS, Baxter MG, Behrens TEJ, Johansen-Berg H, Tomassini V, Miller KL, Rushworth MFS (2011) Diffusion-weighted imaging tractography-based parcellation of the human parietal cortex and comparison with human and macaque resting state functional connectivity. Journal of Neuroscience 31:4087-4100