Research

Brown has several areas of excellence in neuroscience: cellular and molecular neurobiology, neural circuits, sensation and perception, cognition and behavior, computation in mind and brain, and neuroengineering and neurotechnology.  Each builds on Brown's national and international reputation, and brings together faculty from many departments at Brown. Students in the Neuroscience Graduate Program frequently conduct research that spans several of these areas.

Cognition and Behavior

Researchers at Brown seek to understand the "outputs" of brain activity -- cognition, decision making, cognitive development, emotion, memory, and attention. Brown's strength lies in the close connection between basic science research on human brain function and behavior to clinicians in psychiatry at Brown's affiliated hospitals, who have a vested interest in understanding and modifying human behavior. This serves as a vital link between knowledge of cells and circuit function and human behavior in health and disease.   Research themes include vision research, computational approaches to the study of cognition, the study of the frontal lobe (what makes us human), decision making and cognitive control. Key clinical applications include autism, ADHD, and frontostriatal disorders. The Robert J. and Nancy D. Carney Institute's MRI research facility and brain stimulation facility critically support this work.

Computation in Brain and Mind

The problem of understanding the relationship between brain and mind is complex; a close interaction among theorists and experimentalists is required to understand fundamental brain and cognitive processes.  Brown neuroscientists and cognitive scientists rely on computational tools to develop and refine theories about the fundamental computations of mind and brain, used to guide and interpret experiments; and, to develop sophisticated statistical analysis tools for decoding neural data and predicting, for example, spike trains in a given neuronal population based on their spike history and leverage this predictability for applications such as brain-machine interfaces.  Other applications include the use of computational tools to automate the monitoring and analysis of behavioral neuroscience data. Brown has particular expertise in computational approaches to higher order brain function, from perception to cognition, spanning the departments of Neuroscience; Cognitive, Linguistic & Psychological Sciences; Applied Mathematics; Computer Science; Neurosurgery; Biostatistics; and, Engineering.

The Initiative in Computation in Brain and Mind brings together experts in theory and computation with experimental brain scientists, which enables outstanding, multilevel and multidisciplinary training for undergraduates, graduates and postdocs.

Neurobiology of Cells and Circuits

Faculty from multiple departments work to advance our understanding of the function of neural circuits, using genetic, molecular, and cellular approaches as a foundation.  Work in this area includes brain development, as well as brain function in health and disease. Research is driven by new genetic technologies that allow us to visualize and control the activity of neurons within specific brain circuits that in turn control behaviors; and human genetic studies in collaboration with clinical departments.  The Center for Neurobiology of Cells and Circuits includes faculty that produce vital knowledge to advance the understanding and treatment of autism, neurodegeneration including Alzheimer's and ALS, chronic pain, psychiatric illness, migraine, addiction, and epilepsy.  

Neuroengineering and Neurotechnology

Neuroengineering and Neurotechnology at Brown is founded on a history as a world leader in brain machine interface technology. The BrainGate neural interface system, developed out of decades of fundamental neuroscience research at Brown on the neural basis of movement, has been undergoing a decade of clinical study and research. Clinicians, engineers, and neuroscientists continue to develop and apply this technology. Neuroengineering and Neurotechnology at Brown is now expanding to include patterned spinal cord stimulation to restore movement after paralysis, developing new low power high fidelity distributed brain sensors, non-invasive all-molecular light based methods to control circuit function, and applying unbiased computational approaches to measure the efficacy of non-invasive stimulation. Researchers in neuroengineering are also developing novel methods of imaging the intact nervous system. Computational neuroscience expertise at Brown enables these neuroengineering efforts by providing methods for decoding neural signals and for modeling circuit function. The School of Engineering is an essential partner in this work.