Research

Neuroscience research at Brown spans a wide range of research specialties, including Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology, Neural Circuits, Sensation and Perception, Cognition and Behavior, Computation in Brain and Mind, 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.

Sensation and Perception

A number of labs at Brown specialize in understanding how animals and humans use sensory percepts to make sense of the world. This research not only spans various sensory modalities (vision, olfaction, taste, etc.) but also tackles problems at various levels of analysis. For example, some labs address questions about vision at the level of retinal ganglion cells while others assess top-down cognitive influences on object recognition. Research in this area is supported by various centers at the Carney Institute, such as the Center for Vision Research, and the COBRE Center for Central Nervous System Function.

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. Research themes include 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 guide and interpret experiments, and to develop sophisticated statistical analysis tools for decoding neural data (for example, predicting spike trains in a given neuronal population for applications in brain-machine interfaces).   Brown has particular expertise in computational approaches to higher order brain function, 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.

Neural Circuits

Faculty from multiple departments work to advance our understanding of the function of neural circuits, using genetic and electrophysiological 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 and the collaborative effort of clinicians, engineers, and neuroscientists. Neuroengineering and Neurotechnology at Brown has expanded 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; applying unbiased computational approaches to measure the efficacy of non-invasive stimulation; and developing novel methods of imaging the intact nervous system. Brown's computational neuroscience expertise provides cutting-edge methods for decoding neural signals and modeling circuit function, which enable Neuroengineering and Neurotechnology advances.