My lab studies the neurobiological principles underlying cognition and decision-making. Using state-of-the-art technologies, we interrogate neural circuits in rodents as they perform a task. We validate our findings with analogous tasks in humans. We hope to define the neural circuits underlying decisions that will inform the development of new therapies for psychiatric diseases.
Adam Kepecs and colleagues are interested in identifying the neurobiological principles underlying cognition and decision-making. They use a reductionist approach, distilling behavioral questions to quantitative behavioral tasks for rats and mice that enable the monitoring and manipulation of neural circuits supporting behavior. Using state-of-the-art electrophysiological techniques, they first seek to establish the neural correlates of behavior and then use molecular and optogenetic manipulations to systematically dissect the underlying neural circuits. Given the complexity of animal behavior and the dynamics of neural networks that produce it, their studies require quantitative analysis and make regular use of computational models. The team also has begun to incorporate human psychophysics to validate its behavioral observations in rodents by linking them with analogous behaviors in human subjects. Currently, the team’s research encompasses study of (1) neural basis of decision confidence, (2) the division of labor among cell types in prefrontal cortex, (3) how the cholinergic system supports learning and attention, and (4) social decisions that rely on stereotyped circuits. A unifying theme is the use of precisely timed cell-type and pathway-specific perturbations to effect gain- and loss-of-function for specific behavioral abilities. This year, the Kepecs lab was able to link foraging decisions—the choice between staying or going—to a neural circuit and specific cell types in the prefrontal cortex. In other work, they identified a class of inhibitory neurons that specializes in inhibiting other inhibitory neurons in the cerebral cortex and conveys information about rewards and punishment. Through manipulations of genetically and anatomically defined neuronal elements, the team hopes to identify fundamental principles of neural circuit function that will be useful for developing therapies for diseases such as schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease, and autism spectrum disorder.
James and Cathleen Stone Faculty Award, CSHL
Kavli Frontiers of Science Fellow
Eppendorf and Science prize for Neurobiology, Finalist
John Merck Scholar
Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow
McKnight Memory & Cognitive Disorders Award
A better way to trace neuronal pathways
June 6, 2018
Researchers have improved a key method used to map circuits in the brain
Portrait of a Neuroscience Powerhouse
April 27, 2018
A relatively small neuroscience group at CSHL is having an outsized impact on a dynamic and highly competitive field
CSHL’s Kepecs receives BRAIN Initiative grant to develop tools to guide behavioral research
August 1, 2017
Dr. Adam Kepecs receives grant to develop conceptual infrastructure for behavioral neuroscience research
Is confidence measurable?
May 16, 2017
Confidence is “not just a feeling,” according to neuroscientist Adam Kepecs. Finding the confidence-calculating circuitry in our brains has huge.
Dopamine neurons factor ambiguity into predictions that enable us to “win big and win often”
March 9, 2017
Researchers describe how dopamine-releasing neurons weigh the ambiguity of sensory information, indicating that neurons are highly sophisticated.
Our brain uses statistics to calculate confidence, make decisions
May 4, 2016
The brain produces feelings of confidence that inform decisions the same way statistics pulls patterns out of noisy data.
Alumnus Josh Sanders makes neuroscience research tools open and affordable
May 2, 2016
Josh Sanders developed a series of tools for neuroscience research that filled major needs in the field.
Surprised? Cholinergic neurons send brain-wide broadcasts enabling us to learn from the unexpected
August 25, 2015
Researchers find dedicated neurons that rapidly informing multiple subregions in the brain of any surprising rewards or punishments.
Drs. Kepecs and Li honored with 2015 NARSAD Independent Investigator grant awards
May 12, 2015
Dr. Kepecs and Dr. Li received two-year grants to fund their important research.
Swartz Centers dedication
April 1, 2015
An official recognition of Jerome Swartz for his 25+ years of friendship and generous support of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory neuroscience programs.
Li, S. J. and Vaughan, A. and Sturgill, J. F. and Kepecs, A. (2018) A Viral Receptor Complementation Strategy to Overcome CAV-2 Tropism for Efficient Retrograde Targeting of Neurons. Neuron, 98(5) pp. 905-917 e.5.
Lak, A. and Nomoto, K. and Keramati, M. and Sakagami, M. and Kepecs, A. (2017) Midbrain Dopamine Neurons Signal Belief in Choice Accuracy during a Perceptual Decision. Curr Biol, 27(6) pp. 821-832.
Hangya, Balázs and Ranade, Sachin P and Lorenc, Maja and Kepecs, Adam (2015) Central Cholinergic Neurons Are Rapidly Recruited by Reinforcement Feedback. Cell, 162(5) pp. 1155-1168.
Lak, A. and Costa, G. M. and Romberg, E. and Koulakov, A. A. and Mainen, Z. F. and Kepecs, A. (2014) Orbitofrontal Cortex Is Required for Optimal Waiting Based on Decision Confidence. Neuron, 84(1) pp. 190-201.
Pi, H. J. and Hangya, B. and Kvitsiani, D. and Sanders, J. I. and Huang, Z. J. and Kepecs, A. (2013) Cortical interneurons that specialize in disinhibitory control. Nature, 503 pp. 521-24.
Kvitsiani, D. and Ranade, S. and Hangya, B. and Taniguchi, H. and Huang, J. Z. and Kepecs, A. (2013) Distinct behavioural and network correlates of two interneuron types in prefrontal cortex. Nature, 498(7454) pp. 363-366.Additional materials of the author at
CSHL Institutional Repository