Is the Brain in the Goldilocks Zone?

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Is the Brain in the Goldilocks Zone?

by Professor George Paxinos, BA, PhD, AO, DSc, FASSA, FAA, FRSN, FAHMS

Introduction by Panagiotis Karanis, Professor of Anatomy, University of Nicosia Medical School.


Atlases are like theories. Like theories, they assist in finding our way in an unknown domain. Paxinos will report on how he used chemoarchitecture as a criterion in identifying nuclei and as a Rosetta Stone for establishing homologies between experimental animals and humans. The maps of the bird brain assisted in producing more accurate maps of the mammalian brain. Comparisons of the brain of humans with that of non-human primates (chimpanzee, rhesus macaque and marmoset) revealed the same nuclei to exist in all primates. Current work involves construction of an MRI/DTI atlas of the living human brain, designed to provide scientists and clinicians similar images to those they view from their subjects/patients. The speaker will reflect on the place of the human brain on the evolutionary tree of brains. Finally, Paxinos will speak of the neuroscience principles behind the formation of heroes of his novel A River Divided, a novel in the environmental genre that may have broken a record in the time it took him to complete – 21 years.


George Paxinos is a Greek Australian neuroscientist, born in Ithaca, Greece. He completed his BA in psychology at the University of California at Berkeley and his PhD at McGill University in Montreal, Canada.

After a postdoctoral year at Yale University, he moved to the School of Psychology of the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. He is currently an NHMRC Senior Principal Research Fellow at Neuroscience Research Australia and Scientia Professor of Medical Sciences at the University of New South Wales.

He is a fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, the Australian Academy of Social Sciences, the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences. In 2012 Prof Paxinos was elected a corresponding member of the Academy of Athens in Greece and in 2019 he was awarded a Distinguished Fellow of the Royal Society of New South Wales in Australia.

Although known for his impact within neuroscience, Paxinos has a history of campaigning for the environment. For more than 10 years (1989 – 2000) Paxinos was the leading proponent of light rail for the city of Sydney. His motivation had been to reduce atmospheric pollution from automobile use. He stood as candidate for the Australian Cyclists Party for the 2015 state elections in New South Wales. In 2021, he published ‘A River Divided’ (published in Greek as ‘Ο Αμαζόνιος ανάμεσα μας’, 2022), a novel in the environmental genre, where neuroscience principles and environmental issues are at the centre, including the question of whether the brain is the right ‘size’ for survival. It was published in 2021 and recently dubbed one of ‘five eco-fiction must-reads’ by Carousel.

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