Research Menu

For more information visit www.theswartzfoundation.org. The Swartz Foundation was established by Jerry Swartz in 1994 to explore the application of physics, mathematics, and engineering principles to neuroscience as a path to better understanding the mind/brain relationship. The Foundation supports several important aspects of neuroscience research at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

The strategic intent of the Swartz Foundation is to integrate problem-solving approaches from physics, mathematics, electrical engineering and computer science into neuroscience research, to better understand the relationship between the human brain and mind, one of the great frontiers of 21st-century science

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.

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.

The Swartz Foundation also organizes and sponsors neuroscience workshops and meetings. Core themes have included communication in brain systems, neurobiology of decision making, and large-scale neural network modeling. The Banbury Center at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory has hosted the following series of workshops since 1998:

  • Searching for Principles Underlying Memory in Biological Systems (April 12-15, 2009)
  • Attention in Visual and Auditory Systems (April 20-23, 2008)
  • New Frontiers in Studies of Nonconscious Procession (2007)
  • Computational Approaches to Cortical Functions (2006)
  • Neurobiology of Decision-Making (2005)
  • Communication in Brain Systems (2004)*
  • Can a Machine be Conscious? (2001)
  • Persistent Neural Activity (2000)*
  • Toward Animal Models of Attention and Consciousness (2000)
  • Functional Organization of the Thalamus and Cortex and their Interactions (1999)
  • Neurocomputational Strategies: From Synapses to Behavior (1998)

* co-sponsored with The Sloan Foundation

Dinu Florin Albeanu

Dinu Florin Albeanu

How does the brain encode stimuli from the outside world to give rise to perceptions? What does a smell look like in the brain? The focus of my group is to understand how neural circuits compute sensory-motor transformations across different contexts, senses, and brain states to generate meaningful behaviors.

Anne Churchland

Anne Churchland

Animals are faced with many decisions. They must integrate information from a variety of sources – sensory inputs like smell and sound as well as memories and innate impulses – to arrive at a single behavioral output. My laboratory investigates the neural circuits that underlie decision-making.

Tatiana Engel

Tatiana Engel

My lab investigates how perception and cognition arise from changes in neural activity. We develop and apply computational methods to discover dynamic patterns in large-scale neural activity recordings. We then create mathematical models to explain how these activity changes emerge from signaling between neurons, ultimately driving behavior.

Adam Kepecs

Adam Kepecs

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.

Alexei Koulakov

Alexei Koulakov

The complexity of the mammalian brain challenges our ability to explain it. My group applies methods from mathematics and theoretical physics to understand the brain. We are generating novel ideas about neural computation and brain development, including how neurons process information, how brain networks assemble during development, and how brain architecture evolved to facilitate its function.

Anthony Zador

Anthony Zador

My lab studies how circuitry in the brain gives rise to complex behaviors, one of nature’s great mysteries. We study how the auditory cortex processes sound, and how this is interrupted in autism. We also seek to obtain a wiring diagram of the mouse brain at the resolution of individual neurons. Our unusual approach exploits cheap and rapid “next-gen” gene sequencing technology.