Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory  
Contact Us | Faculty & Staff Directory

Swartz Center for the Neural Mechanisms of Cognition (CNMC)

The aim of the Center for Neural Mechanisms of Cognition (CNMC) at CSHL is to understand cognition in the normal brain, and to integrate this knowledge with the genetics of cognitive dysfunction to understand the mechanism of diseases progression. The kinds of questions we address at the CNMC are those traditionally studied in non-human primates, but research at the CNMC focuses on cognitive mechanisms in rodents.  Research in rodents provides numerous advantages over comparable research in non-human primates, including short training times, low cost, the availability of high-throughput behavioral assays, and the availability of sophisticated electrophysiological, optical, optogenetic and molecular methods. Recent results from the CNMC include studies of the neural correlates of attention (1,2) and confidence (3).

1. Jaramillo, S. and A. M. Zador (2011). "The auditory cortex mediates the perceptual effects of acoustic temporal expectation." Nat Neurosci. 4(2):246-51

2. Otazu, G. H., L. H. Tai, Y. Yang and A. M. Zador (2009). "Engaging in an auditory task suppresses responses in auditory cortex." Nat Neurosci 12(5): 646-54.

3. Kepecs, A., N. Uchida, H. A. Zariwala and Z. F. Mainen (2008). "Neural correlates, computation and behavioural impact of decision confidence." Nature 455(7210): 227-31.

The CNMC currently consists of of Anthony Zador, Adam Kepecs, Florin Albeanu and Anne Churchland.



Tony Zador
Swartz Center Director

The goal of Anthony Zador's laboratory is to elucidate the cortical mechanisms underlying auditory processing and attention, and how they are disrupted in pathological conditions such as autism. To this end, his group uses a variety of behavioral, physiological, molecular and computational approaches.

For more information on Dr. Zador’s projects, click here.

Adam Kepecs

The lab of Adam Kepecs is studying the neural mechanisms and computational principles of decision making in rodents. Work in the lab combines behavioral, physiological and molecular approaches with quantitative analysis and computational modeling. Currently the lab is exploring the neural circuits underlying the computation of confidence in a choice, in addition to the choice itself, as well as the dynamic coordination of neural activity across brain regions.

For more information on Dr. Kepecs' projects, click here.

Florin Albeanu

How does the brain encode stimuli from the outside world to generate specific perceptions that in turn trigger complex behaviors? How is the brain shaped by sensory experience and what modifications occur in neuronal circuits that allow us to learn and remember? These are questions guiding the work of Florin Albeanu, who is using the rodent olfactory bulb as the subject of his current studies. Airborne chemicals translated into neuronal signals by specific receptors in the nose are sent directly to the olfactory bulb. Technological advances in optical imaging and optogenetics combined with electrophysiological recordings enable one to monitor and/or alter patterns of activity at unprecedented synaptic and millisecond resolution in awake behaving animals. By recording neuronal activity in the input and output layers of the olfactory bulb, as well as from olfactory cortical areas, Albeanu aims to understand computations the bulb performs and its role in various olfactory behaviors.

For more information on Dr. Albeanu’s projects, click here.

Anne Churchland

Anne Churchland's laboratory investigates the neural machinery underlying decision-making. We use carefully designed paradigms that encourage experimental subjects to deliberate over incoming sensory evidence before making a decision. We collect behavioral data on decision-making tasks from both humans and rodents. To connect this behavior to its underlying neural circuitry, we measure electrophysiological responses of cortical neurons in rodents as they perform the task. Finally, we also use theoretical models of varying complexity to further constrain how the neural responses we observe might drive the behavior. This approach generates insights into sensory processing, motor planning and complex cognitive function.

For more information on Dr. Churchland' projects, click here.