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Swartz Center for Theoretical Neuroscience

The Swartz Foundation supports research at eleven centers for theoretical neuroscience: The Salk Institute, California Institute of Technology, New York University, University of California at San Francisco, Brandeis University, University of California at San Diego, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, and most recently, Columbia, Princeton, Yale and Harvard universities. In general, our objective is to understand the distributed dynamics of brain activity and identify principles of brain function in relation to cognition and behavior. Targeted research projects range from experimental investigations of brain circuitry to computational modeling of large-scale neuronal networks to exploration of nonconscious mental processing—all utilizing physical and mathematical principles.


Swartz Center for Theoretical Neuroscience at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory currently includes Anthony Zador, Florin Albeanu, Anne Churchland, Adam Kepecs, Alex Koulakov and Glenn Turner.


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.

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.

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.

Alexei Koulakov

Alexei Koulakov uses mathematical methods to explore how real-world neurons form functional networks in the brain. Some of his work has generated robust theoretical models of visual and olfactory neural circuits—models that match experimental observations and, importantly, make testable predictions that are likely to reveal new clues to brain structure and function.

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

Glenn Turner

Glenn Turner's laboratory uses the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, to understand how smell and taste are encoded in the brain, and how those representations are modified by learning.  This is accomplished using a combination of electrophysiological, functional imaging, genetic, and computational approaches. The long-term goal of this research is to understand how neuronal plasticity alters cellular and population level stimulus representations to link together information from different sensory modalities.

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