Cognitive

Daniel Bullock, Ph.D. (Professor, Department of Cognitive and Neural Systems (CRC)) Interests of the Bullock lab are focused on the use of integrated computational models of local circuits implicated in reinforcement learning, planning of action sequences (including speech), and motivated decision making. Current models focus on forebrain circuits within or linking: laminar frontal cortex, the striatum and other parts of the basal ganglia, and midbrain dopaminergic areas.  The long-term goal is construction of quantitative models of sufficient accuracy to predict effects of many pharmacological manipulations on decision-making, voluntary behavior, and skill learning.

Alice Cronin-Golomb, Ph.D. (Professor, Department of Psychology (CRC)) directs the Vision & Cognition Laboratory whose principal focus is determining the factors that influence visual cognition in normal aging and age-related neurological disease. Her laboratory is identifying the brain bases of high-order cognitive dysfunction in neuropsychological populations, principally Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

Howard Eichenbaum, Ph.D. (Professor and Director of the BU Center for Neuroscience, Department of Psychology and Pharmacology (CRC/BUMC)) The hippocampus plays a critical role in memory formation, but our understanding of just what the hippocampus does and how it performs its functions are still issues of considerable controversy. To enhance our knowledge about hippocampal function, the laboratory is pursuing a combination of neuropsychological studies of the nature of memory loss in animals with damage to the hippocampus and related cortical areas, and we are pursuing electrophysiological recording studies that seek to determine how information is represented by the hippocampus and associated cortical areas.

David H. Farb, Ph.D. (Professor and Chair, Member of the Executive Committee of the BU Center for Neuroscience, Department of Pharmacology (BUMC)) focuses on the identification of pharmacological treatments for mental disorders of learning and memory.  His research integrates existing electrophysiological, behavioral, pharmacological, and molecular genetic technologies in a novel systems-level platform for assessing the impact of cognitive enhancers upon fundamental hippocampal systems for pattern separation (encoding), and pattern completion (retrieval) that are believed to be essential for cognition in all mammals, including man. Deficits in aspects of episodic memory dependent on hippocampal function are evident in a variety of mental disorders that have a huge social impact, including schizophrenia, autism, Alzheimer’s Disease, and normal aging. Existing pharmacotherapies for many such conditions are limited and carry substantial risk of adverse effects. High-density electrophysiological recordings in awake behaving rats are being used to identify deficits in hippocampal function that underlie cognitive deficits exhibited by aged animals and animals reared in social isolation, the latter being a model for environmental stress during development. A multidisciplinary approach that includes the techniques of neurophysiology, molecular biology, patch-clamp electrophysiology, cell biology, and molecular neuroanatomy are combined to elucidate the mechanisms and modalities of cognitive enhancers and the discovery of therapeutic treatments for disorders or diseases of the nervous system.

Timothy Gardner, Ph.D. (Assistant Professor, Department of Biology (CRC)) studies how neural circuits form in the development of animal behavior. We focus on vocal learning in songbirds — a subject that lends itself to quantitative approaches.  How do songbirds memorize the songs of other birds, and how do these memories influence their own vocal learning? Many songbirds sing fairly normally when reared in isolation, but in the right circumstances, they may also imitate external models. Song learning is therefore the result of innate programming that provides a basic outline for song, and an auditory-memory based learning that builds on the innate program. The laboratory is currently investigating the process that builds and maintains the core sequence of the song behavior.  What growth mechanisms form the core structure of song and what are the geometric properties of the resulting circuit? What features of the circuit govern the flexible ordering of song? What homeostatic mechanisms maintain the circuit, and what is the role of spontaneous neural activity in sleep? For genetically identical birds, how would song learning differ? The lab is addressing one or more of these questions through tools including quantitative behavioral experiments and inbreeding, in-vivo imaging, electrophysiology and functional perturbation of neural activity.

Stephen Grossberg, Ph.D. (Professor, Departments of Cognitive Neural Systems (CRC)) develops brain models of vision and visual object recognition; audition, speech, and language; development; attentive learning and memory; cognitive information processing; reinforcement learning and motivation; cognitive-emotional interactions; navigation; sensory-motor control and robotics; and mental disorders. These models involve many parts of the brain, ranging from perception to action, and multiple levels of brain organization, ranging from individual spikes and their synchronization to cognition. He also collaborates in experimental projects to test predictions of his models, carrys out analyses of the mathematical dynamics of neural systems, and transfers biological neural models to applications in neuromorphic engineering and technology.

Frank Guenther, Ph.D. (Professor,  Department of Cognitive and Neural Systems (CRC)) combines theoretical modeling with behavioral and neuroimaging experiments to characterize the neural computations underlying speech and language. He is also involved in the development of speech prostheses that utilize brain-computer interfaces to restore synthetic speech to paralyzed individuals.

Michael Hasselmo, Ph.D. (Professor, Department of Psychology (CRC)) Research in the Hasselmo laboratory is concerned with the cortical dynamics of memory-guided behavior, including effects of neuromodulatory receptors and the role of theta rhythm oscillations in cortical function. Neurophysiological techniques are used to analyze intrinsic and synaptic properties of cortical circuits in the rat, and to explore the effects of modulators on these properties. Computational modeling is used to link this physiological data to memory-guided behavior.  Experiments using multiple single-unit recording in behavioral tasks are designed to test predictions of the computational models. Areas of focused research include episodic memory function and theta rhythm dynamics in the entorhinal cortex, prefrontal cortex and hippocampal formation. Research addresses physiological effects relevant to Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia and depression.

Nancy Kopell, Ph.D. (Professor, Member of the GPN GEC, Department of Mathematics (CRC)) is interested in the dynamics of cortical electrical activity associated with sensory processing, cognition and motor control.  This broad area includes 1) the physiological and anatomical bases of the multiple rhythms measured in EEG, MEG and invasive paradigms; 2) the relationships between those rhythms and cognitive function; 3) how pathologies in those rhythms relate to cognitive and motor symptoms in neurological diseases.

Marlene Oscar-Berman, Ph.D. (Professor, Member of the GPN GEC, Departments of Anatomy and Neurobiology, Psychiatry, and Neurology (BUMC)) research explores the brain and behavioral consequences of human neurological disorders.  Her recent publications are on the cognitive and emotional changes that result from chronic alcoholism, as well as on brain structural changes that are apparent in regions involved in cognitive and emotional functioning. Dr. Berman also has studied the behavioral consequences of brain damage in patients with other disorders of the central nervous system.  Additionally, her work on brain asymmetries addresses questions concerning the different roles of the two cerebral hemispheres in processing, understanding, and responding to visual information having emotional and non-emotional content.  Dr. Berman is the recipient of numerous awards, including a Fulbright award and a Senior Scientist and Mentorship award from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism in the National Institutes of Health.

Michele Rucci, Ph.D. (Associate Professor, Departments of Psychology and Biomedical Engineering (CRC)) directs The Active Perception Lab that focuses on active perception in biological and artificial systems. Experimental and theoretical approaches are combined to examine motor influences on perceptual performance and on the encoding of sensory information in the brain. Robots replicating the sensory-motor strategies of various species are studied in an effort to develop efficient machine perception systems. Research in the Active Perception Laboratory has raised specific hypotheses regarding the influences of eye movements during visual development and in the neural encoding of visual information. This research has also demonstrated the involvement of fixational eye movements in fine spatial vision, produced a new system for experimental studies of visual neuroscience, and led to the development of robots directly controlled by models of the brain.

Barbara Shinn-Cunningham, Ph.D. (Professor, member of GPN GEC, Department of Cognitive and Neural Systems (CRC)) Shinn-Cunningham is the Director of the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory in the Boston University Hearing Research Center, housed in the Department of Cognitive and Neural Systems. Projects in the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory explore how we perceive sound sources in ordinary listening environments that contain multiple, competing sources, echoes, and reverberation. They are investigating how auditory attention and the perceptual organization of sound influences perception, how the brain encodes features of sound important for perception (including spatial auditory cues), the role of multimodal interactions in perception, and development of physiologically based computational models of auditory processing. A variety of methods are
employed, including psychophysics, modeling, EEG, acoustical measurement, and single-unit recording.

David Somers, Ph.D. (Professor, Academic Director, Graduate Program for Neuroscience/Computational Specialization, Department of Psychology (CRC)) heads the Perceptual Neuroimaging Laboratory that investigates the neural and cognitive representations and mechanisms of perception, attention, and perceptual short-term memory in humans using functional magnetic resonance imaging, computational modeling and psychophysics.  In addition to the primary focus on vision, collaborative work investigates tactile and auditory processing. Functional MRI studies focus on within-subject data analysis that permits the functional segregation of small cerebral cortical areas that are often obscured in across-subject analysis.  Recently, they identified and characterized two new visuotopic areas in human posterior parietal cortex using these methods.

Chantal Stern, Ph.D. (Professor, Department of Psychology (CRC)) is a core faculty member of the Conte Center for Memory and Brain, a member of the NSF CELEST Science of Learning Center, and a faculty member at the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at the Massachusetts General Hospital. She also serves as an internal advisory board member for the Boston University Alzheimer’s Disease Center.  Her students are trained in basic fMRI research methodology, and in addition are trained either to link their fMRI work to animal and computational models (integration with Hasselmo and Eichenbaum labs) or to link their studies with clinical population studies (Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, HIV dementia, eating disorders). Chantal Stern has been instrumental in providing fMRI training to postdocs and graduate students that were initially trained in other research methodologies, including students and postdocs initially trained in ERP methods; optical animal imaging methods, animal lesion and electrophysiological methods, clinical neuropsychology methods, and structural and morphometric imaging method.

Helen Tager-Flusberg, Ph.D. (Professor, Departments of Psychology (CRC) & Anatomy and Neurobiology (BUMC)) is the Director of the Lab of Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience at Boston University/BU School of Medicine.  For the past three decades she has investigated the cognitive architecture that characterizes children with different neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism spectrum disorders, Williams syndrome, specific language impairment and other genetically-based disorders, with a particular focus on language and social cognition.  Her work emphasizes the integral connection between typical and atypical development exploring how data from children with neurodevelopmental disorders may illuminate theoretical issues of normal development.