Suzana Herculano-Houzel

Career

Suzana Herculano-Houzel, Ph.D., is a biologist and neuroscientist, researcher, writter, columnist at brazilian newspaper Folha de São Paulo and professor at Vanderbilt University, where she is Associate Professor in the Departments of Psychology and Biological Sciences. She is also the first female editor-in-chief of The Journal of Comparative Neurology.

Holding degrees from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Case Western Reserve University, and the University of Paris VI, Herculano-Houzel’s 20-year teaching experience is complemented by her work as a science communicator in Brazil, including hosting TV shows and writing a bi-weekly column for Folha de São Paulo.

Her diverse contributions have established her as a leading figure in neuroscience and science communication. Herculano-Houzel’s TEDGlobal talk on the uniqueness of the human brain has garnered over 3 million views. She is working on several neuroscience courses for different levels of knowledge that are or will be available soon in this website.

Research


She investigates the extent, the constraints, and the implications of brain diversity, particularly at the interface between metabolism, longevity, and cognition. Most recently, she showed that theropod dinosaurs had primate-like numbers of neurons; that mammalian brains must use what energy they get, not as much as they demand; and that lifespan scales not with body size or metabolic rate, but with number of cortical neurons.

Renowned for her research, her findings have been published in prestigious journals and features in major media outlets like the New York Times Magazine and The Washington Post. She is convinced that natural selection is overrated, and that life is really “just Whatever Works.”

She is the author of The Human Advantage (MIT Press, 2016), in which she tells the story of her discoveries on how many neurons different species have —and how the number of neurons in the cerebral cortex of humans is the largest of them all, thanks to the calories amassed with a very early technology developed by our ancestors: cooking. 

She’s currently working on several new books, including a neuroscience textbook.

Books

Her books, predominantly written in her native Portuguese, are not just scientific texts; they are bridges connecting the intricate world of neuroscience to everyday life. In titles such as “The Human Advantage” and “Fique de bem com o seu cérebro,” Suzana invites readers into an engaging exploration of the brain, making complex concepts accessible and relatable.

From “Pílulas de neurociência para uma vida melhor,” which offers practical neuroscience insights for daily living, to “O cérebro adolescente,” delving into the transformation of the adolescent brain, her works cover a vast range of topics. Each book reflects her deep understanding and passion for neuroscience, aiming to enlighten and inspire readers about the brain’s wonders and its impact on our daily lives.

Suzana’s commitment to science communication is evident in “Falando ciência,” where she guides fellow scientists on effectively sharing their work with diverse audiences. Her book “Por que o bocejo é contagioso?” addresses curiosities about everyday phenomena from a neurological perspective, showcasing her ability to merge scientific rigor with engaging storytelling.

  • The Human Advantage: A New Understanding of How Our Brain Became Remarkable (2016, MIT Press)
  • Falando ciência: Um guia para comunicar ciência aos pares e ao público sem arrancar os cabelos (2015, Amazon Digital Services)
  • Pílulas de neurociência para uma vida melhor (2009, Ed. Sextante)
  • Fique de bem com o seu cérebro (2007, Editora Sextante/Amazon Digital Services)
  • Por que o bocejo é contagioso? e outras curiosidades da neurociência sobre o cotidiano (2007, Jorge Zahar Editora/Amazon Digital Services)
  • O cérebro adolescente: a neurociência da transformação da criança em adulto (2005, Editora Objetiva/Amazon Digital Services)
  • Sexo, Drogas, Rock’n’Roll & Chocolate: O cérebro e os prazeres da vida cotidiana (2003, Editora Vieira & Lent)
  • O Cérebro Nosso de Cada Dia: Descobertas da Neurociência sobre a vida cotidiana (2002, Editora Vieira & Lent)
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