William D. Hopkins, PhD, who has worked with chimpanzees and bonobos for nearly 30 years, takes a multidisciplinary approach to studying human evolution, particularly the evolution of human language. Through the study of nonhuman primates, the Hopkins lab is increasing our understanding of the roles that behavior, laterality, neuroanatomy, cellular organization and cortical function may have played in the evolution of human language.
Dr. Hopkins’ studies are focused on the documentation of functional asymmetries in nonhuman primates. This includes assessments of handedness, visual-half field studies and behavioral studies of facial expressions. The second line of behavioral research in chimpanzees is focused on gestural and vocal communication, particularly the functional use of communicative signals in chimpanzees. In addition, the lab has completed studies in chimpanzees using positron emission tomography (PET) to localize the motor hand area in this species and to explore the areas of the brain involved in the production of chimpanzee vocal and gestural communication.
In 2014, Dr. Hopkins was named Science Director at the Iowa Primate Learning Sanctuary (IPLS) in Des Moines. In information released to the media, the IPLS said the addition of Dr. Hopkins and his colleague Dr. Jared Taglialatella of Kennesaw State University will spur a reinvigoration of the cognitive and behavioral research at the primate research facility. "I am honored to be asked to oversee the research program of such a valuable and important population of great apes," said Hopkins.
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