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COBRE Center for Central Nervous System Function

The NIGMS-NIH funded COBRE Center for Central Nervous System Function focuses on the genetic and neural basis of attention, decision making and action.  

Purposeful human behavior requires attention, decisions and action, all basic functions mediated by brain networks primarily located in the neocortex, but modulated and shaped by sub-cortical processing.  Behavioral and brain mechanisms of attention, including vigilance, orienting and perceptual and action selection, are key gateways into high-level function. Thus, in a general and even specific sense, attention, decision making and the ensuing actions define human mental activities. Deficits in these functions are common in both neurological and psychiatric disorders and can result in a wide range of higher-order behavioral deficits. We have establishd a COBRE Center at Brown University that will investigate the mechanisms of higher-brain function, with a focus on attention, decision making and action and disorders that modify these key systems, using a combination of genetic, behavior, and systems neuroscience approaches.

This COBRE initially consisted of five research projects led by junior faculty and one Reserch Core.  

Eric Morrow investigated the neurobiology of children diagnosed with “difficult-to-treat autism,” a group that often presents with obsessive compulsive behaviors.  Dr. Morrow "graduated" from our COBRE after Year 2, due to having successfully competed for two NIH R01 grants.  Dr. Morrow as promoted to Associate Professor and now also serves as the Co-Director of the Center for Neural Circuits and Synapes, Brown Institute for Brain Science.

Dima Amso investigated the typical development of visual selective attention and the mechanisms of its disruption in autism spectrum disorder.  Dr. Amso graduated from our COBRE after Year 3, having procured external grants from Federal (R01) and private (McDonnell Foundation) sources.

Michael Worden examined selective attention mechanisms resulting from conflict.  He graduated from the COBRE at the end of Year 4 and currently serves as the Director of the newly formed Behavior and Neuroimaging Core.

Wael Asaad investigates interactions between neocortex and basal ganglia during attention-based associative decision-making.  He continues on our COBRE, but he's on a phased graduation.

Joo-Hyun Song investigates how multiple neural systems become integrated to select actions, such as choosing to pick up a red instead of a blue pencil. Dr. Song continues on the COBRE, on a phased graduation.  She has garnered a CAREER award from the National Science Foundation.

We originally had a single Research Core, Design and Analysis Core, which was led by Joseph Hogan, Department of Biostatistics. This core facilitates the research goals of the research projects and is inteneded to benefit the broader community by developing new tools and optimizing existing ones to image brain structure and function with MRI and EEG and neural recordings; and ensuring proper experimental design and analysis procedures across projects. Project leaders will individual senior faculty mentors (in once case two) who will provide support and guidance on research, publication, and grant preparation.  In Year 3, Dr. Hogan stepped down as the direction of the Design and Analysis Core and Dr. Jean Wu, Department of Biostatistics, assumed the leadership of this research core.  Rossi Luo and Ani Eloyon, both in the Department of Statistics

The COBRE Center for Central Nervous System Function is a subunit of the Brown Institute for Brain Science.