A comparative neurobiologist, Bauernfiend is interested in how the biology of the brain underlies a species' particular cognitive specializations and behavioral repertoire.
Her research program investigates neuroanatomical and molecular variation in primates to address questions of evolutionary significance, particularly with regard to the unique cognitive abilities of humans. She uses two approaches when evaluating research questions of these types: molecular expression and quantitative neuroanatomical techniques.
Bauernfiend's studies of molecular expression (RNA-seq and high throughput proteomics) are informed by our knowledge of the anatomical and functional specificity of a brain region. This perspective is critical in order to isolate differences in expression to functionally distinct regions of the brain or classes of neurons.
Bauernfiend uses modern quantitative neuroanatomical techniques to investigate how variation in the volume of brain regions and in neuronal composition may underlie behavioral diversity. Additional work pertains to differences in regional neuronal morphology across species to assess how the complexity of neuronal structure supports species-specific cognition.