Category: Uncategorized

GPN Student-Scott Kuzdeba, Wins IARPA Award!

November 19th, 2014 in Uncategorized

WASHINGTON – The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), announced today the winner of its first public challenge contest, Investigating Novel Statistical Techniques to Identify Neurophysiological Correlates of Trustworthiness (INSTINCT). Troy Lau and Scott Kuzdeba’s winning solution, “JEDI MIND,” could drive further high-risk, high-payoff research on using one’s own neural, physiological, and behavioral signals to help anticipate other people’s intentions or behavior.

In JEDI MIND – Joint Estimation of Deception Intent via Multisource Integration of Neuropsychological Discriminators – Lau and Kuzdeba used a combination of innovative statistical techniques to improve predictions approximately 15% over the baseline analysis. They found that someone’s heart rate and reaction time were among the most useful signals for predicting how likely their partner was to keep a promise. The team’s combination of focused expertise with broader interdisciplinary interests helped them to address the complexities of the challenge—while both have experience with computational neuroscience, Lau is a Ph.D. physicist with a background in data mining and finance, and Kuzdeba is a research engineer with experience in statistical learning, various engineering applications, and economics. Both team members work in BAE Systems’ Adaptive Reasoning Technologies Group, located in Burlington, Mass.

Predicting one person’s trustworthiness from another’s signals is a difficult task, and IARPA chose the challenge format to solicit a wide range of statistical approaches to address it. “The overall structure of the challenge was a really positive and fun experience,” said Lau. “The crowdsourcing competition aspect was nice, but the way it was structured with five submissions per week and a real-time leaderboard was the best part. It made for some unique ‘instant gratification’ that is rare in research.”

Over the 70 days that the INSTINCT challenge was open, 39 solvers developed algorithms using the training set and then submitted algorithms to be scored against the test set. Seven of these exceeded baseline performance for the test data set, and their authors were invited to submit their “best and final” algorithm for independent evaluation against a third, non-released data set. Lower performance with new datasets is common, but JEDI MIND’s algorithms performed well on the new data set used for evaluation.

”We’re delighted with Lau and Kuzdeba’s insight into the data,” said Adam Russell, the TRUST program manager. “Their performance under the rigorous evaluation process of the INSTINCT Challenge provides additional evidence in support of one of the TRUST program’s basic hypotheses:  that the self’s own, often non-conscious signals – if they can be detected and leveraged appropriately – may provide additional valuable information in trying to anticipate the intentions of others.”

Creating analysis techniques that generalize well is a major issue for many kinds of multimodal data sets and unsurprisingly was one of the largest hurdles for INSTINCT solvers. Although only one solver successfully overcame this barrier, all of the finalists produced innovative work and are to be commended. IARPA is currently assessing next steps for potential new research in this area based on lessons learned from the INSTINCT Challenge.

IARPA invests in high-risk, high-payoff research programs that have the potential to provide our nation with an overwhelming intelligence advantage over our future adversaries. Additional information on IARPA and its research may be found on

BU Brain Researchers among Those Invited to White House

October 1st, 2014 in Uncategorized


BU’s Gloria Waters, Michael Hasselmo, and Timothy Gardner were among the academic, industry, and philanthropic leaders invited to the White House yesterday for a conference announcing stepped-up efforts to advance the president’s ambitious BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Neurotechnologies) Initiative. Waters, University vice president and associate provost for research, Hasselmo, a College of Arts & Sciences professor of psychological and brain sciences and director of BU’s new Center for Systems Neuroscience, and Gardner, a CAS assistant professor of biology and a College of Engineering assistant professor of biomedical engineering, were invited to the conference in recognition of BU’s commitment to the initiative.

“Last year I launched the BRAIN Initiative to help unlock the mysteries of the brain, to improve our treatment of conditions like Alzheimer’s and autism, and to deepen our understanding of how we think, learn, and remember,” Obama said. “I’m pleased to announce new steps that my administration is taking to support this critical research, and I’m heartened so see so many private, philanthropic, and academic institutions joining this effort.”

Obama’s BRAIN Initiative, which began as a $100 million project, aims to help researchers uncover the mysteries of brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, schizophrenia, and traumatic brain injury. At yesterday’s event, the White House announced an additional $300 million in support of the initiative, including $46 million in new National Institutes of Health grant awards, $30 million in research and development investments from GE, Google, GlaxoSmith Kline, and other companies, and $240 million in research efforts by major foundations, patient advocacy organizations, and universities, including BU. Brain researchers say the initiative has the potential to do for neuroscience what the Human Genome Project did for genomics by supporting the development and application of innovative technologies that can create a dynamic understanding of brain function.

“Our faculty are carrying out cutting-edge research in neuroscience, and we’re delighted to have our efforts in this area recognized,” Waters says. “Technologies for understanding the brain have advanced tremendously in the past decade, and we are hopeful that this work will lead to a better understanding of brain function, and ultimately, treatment for a wide range of brain disorders.”

In connection with the White House event, yesterday the NIH separately announced its initial $46 million in support of the BRAIN Initiative. Gardner, who records the neural activity of songbirds and was recently awarded a BU Innovation Career Development Professorship, is among the grant recipients. He was awarded nearly $1.8 million to develop a new technology for neural recording and stimulation based on dense bundles of ultrasmall fibers that increase the number of electrical channels while simultaneously minimizing tissue damage. A third of his grant will fund a collaborative project at the University of Texas, Dallas.

The NIH announced funding for 58 projects; the majority of them will focus on developing transformative technologies that will accelerate fundamental neuroscience research.

BU demonstrated its support for the BRAIN Initiative in 2014 by allocating $140 million for the creation of the Center for Integrated Life Sciences and Engineering (CILSE), which will bring together scientists and engineers from across the University for collaborative, interdisciplinary research in neuroscience and biological design.

CILSE will house the Center for Systems Neuroscience, launched this summer, and the new Center for Sensory Communication and Neuroengineering Technology, comprising neuroscientists who study communication systems, among them hearing, speech, language, vision, and other senses, as well as mathematicians studying neural coding and sensory physiologists who are developing innovative technologies. It will be directed by Barbara Shinn-Cunningham, an ENG professor of biomedical engineering, and will enhance technology development as well as work in areas such as neural prosthetics and brain computer interfaces. The University has committed an additional $4 million over five years to the launching of these neuroscience centers.

Ground will be broken at 610 Commonwealth Avenue in late spring or early summer 2015 for the state-of-the-art, nine-story CILSE building, which will cover 170,000 square feet and support about 20 faculty and some 400 students and staff. One of its core resources will be a cognitive neuroimaging facility, with a 3 Tesla fMRI scanner, a fundamental tool for studying the brain’s trillions of neural connections and how they relate to human behavior.

BU boasts one of the nation’s largest clusters of researchers in the emerging field of systems neuroscience, a field that examines the relation between molecular and cellular approaches to understanding brain structure and function, as well as the study of high-level mental functions such as language and memory.

“Consistent with the goals of the BRAIN Initiative,” Hasselmo says, “the goal of systems neuroscience at BU is to develop theories of how the brain functions based on data from recordings of different brain regions, using cutting-edge neurotechnology for measurement and testing of brain activity.”

Another leading BU neuroscientist, Xue Han, an ENG assistant professor of biomedical engineering, was among a group of neuroscientists invited to the White House in April 2013 for Obama’s initial announcement of the BRAIN Initiative.

Han is a pioneer in the young field of optogenetics, in which scientists reengineer nerve cells, or neurons, to respond to light, using molecules called opsins. The technique is now widely used to study brain activity, and she is using it to investigate Parkinson’s disease.

The White House also announced yesterday that the BRAIN Initiative is expanding to include five federal agencies, as the Food and Drug Administration and Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity join the NIH, the National Science Foundation, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. All of the participating agencies are committing to engage in BRAIN Initiative–related work in fiscal year 2015.

“How do the billions of cells in our brain control our thoughts, feelings, and  movements? That’s ultimately what the BRAIN Initiative is about,” said Thomas R. Insel (CAS’72, MED’74), director of the NIH’s National Institute of Mental Health, who spoke at the White House yesterday. “Understanding this will greatly help us meet the rising challenges that brain disorders pose for the future health of the nation.”

Graduate Program for Neuroscience Opening Reception for 2014-2015 Academic Year

September 17th, 2014 in Uncategorized

Three Boston University GPN Neuroscientists Share Their Research on WBUR special series, “Brain Matters”

August 18th, 2014 in Uncategorized


neuroscientist-grid-1200px-620x465 WBUR BU Neuroscientists Sam Ling, Xue Han and Tyler Perrachione featured on the WBUR special series “Brain Matters”

Congratulations to the winners of HIR Student Achievement Day!

May 5th, 2014 in Uncategorized

Congratulations to Samantha Michalka of the Somers Lab for winning first prize and Maripierre Payen Surpris of the Chen lab for second prize representing Graduate Program for Neuroscience at the MED campus!


Boston University Faculty Featured on PBS Frontline

October 24th, 2013 in Uncategorized


League of Denial-The NFL’s Concussion Crisis

GPN to be represented on the SFN Council for Neuroscience Programs

May 22nd, 2013 in Uncategorized

Dr. Shelley Russek will represent GPN as a member of the Committee on Neuroscience Departments and Programs (CNDP) for the Society for Neuroscience. The mission of the CNDP is to enhance the value SfN provides to its individual and Institutional Program (IP) members (neuroscience departments and programs) through programs and initiatives that offer opportunities for professional development, networking, and information sharing to educators and learners in higher education.

Professor Helen Barbas featured in Bostoniaextra

April 25th, 2013 in Uncategorized

Interesting article about the Barbas Neural Systems Lab in Bostoniaextra


Prof. Frank Guenther is guest speaker at Coolidge Corner Theatre’s April 22nd Science on Screen program.

April 4th, 2013 in Uncategorized

Diving Bell flyer Science on Screen Presents:

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly with cognitive and computational neuroscientist Frank Guenther

April 22 at 7:00 pm

Coolidge Corner Theatre, 290 Harvard Street, Brookline

In 1995, at age 43, Jean-Dominique Bauby, the successful and charismatic editor of Elle France magazine, suffered a massive stroke that left him with a rare condition called locked-in syndrome – mentally alert but unable to speak or move except for his left eye. With the help of a speech therapist, he learned to communicate by blinking that eye to signify letters of the alphabet. Blink by blink, letter by letter, he dictated a memoir, which became an international bestseller and the basis for artist and director Julian Schnabel’s fiercely beautiful film. Working with the brilliant cinematographer Janusz Kaminski (Lincoln,Saving Private Ryan), Schnabel immerses us in Bauby’s interior world — his memories, reveries, fantasies, loves and lusts — transforming a story of physical entrapment and spiritual renewal into exhilarating images.

Join us before the film for a talk by Frank Guenther, a professor in the Departments of Speech, Language & Hearing Sciences and Biomedical Engineering at Boston University, where he also is Associate Director for the Graduate Program in Neuroscience. Professor Guenther uses a combination of brain imaging and computational modeling to characterize the brain networks involved in speech, and develops brain-machine interfaces (BMIs) that can restore speech and other capabilities to patients with locked-in syndrome.  BMIs have produced astonishing laboratory demonstrations of locked-in patients controlling computers, speech synthesizers, and robotic arms using only their thoughts. Clinical trials are ongoing for several BMIs, promising a much more normal life for those with locked-in syndrome as these devices become widely available.

Part of the Coolidge Corner Theatre’s ongoing Science on Screen series. Tickets are $10 general admission or $8 students and Museum of Science members.  Coolidge Corner Theatre members get free admission.  For more information and to purchase tickets online,  Tickets are also available at the Coolidge box office.