Mathias obtained his PhD in cognitive neuroscience at Collège de France and NeuroSpin, in Paris, and has a background in computer science. He is interested in humans’ striking ability to entertain highly abstract compositional thoughts, be it language, mathematics or music. His work has focused on the perception of geometric shapes, seeking traces of the ability for abstraction in a domain attested to be extremely old: homo erectus carved abstract geometrical patterns half a million years ago, yet non-human primates seem unable to produce such shapes. He has relied on experimental psychology and neuroscience to answer specific questions: are certain geometric shapes perceived more accurately than others? What characterizes such shapes, and why? What are the neural correlates of models of the shapes’ complexity? But geometric shapes are not the end goal of his research, merely a domain which offers compositional stimuli to test hypotheses about human cognition.