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Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition

The CNBC is a joint venture of the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. Our center leverages the strengths of the University of Pittsburgh in basic and clinical neuroscience and those of Carnegie Mellon in cognitive and computational neuroscience to support a coordinated cross-university research and educational program of international stature. In addition to our Ph.D. program in Neural Computation, we sponsor a graduate certificate program in cooperation with a wide variety of affiliated Ph.D. programs.

Within the CNBC, our over 200 world-class faculty and trainees are investigating the cognitive and neural mechanisms that give rise to biological intelligence and behavior. Research topics include affective, cognitive, linguistic, perceptual, motor and social systems in both normal and disordered populations, as well as computational neuroscience. The CNBC also promotes the translation of findings from basic research into applications for medicine, education, robotics and artificial intelligence.

Training by Repetition Actually Prevents Learning for Those With Autism


repetition_853x480-min.jpgIndividuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) sometimes acquire a new behavior or skill only in a specific context, but they have difficulty transferring that learned skill or information to a new context.
CNBC Professors Marlene Behrmann and Nancy Minshew have a new study in Nature Neuroscience that shows how training individuals with ASD to acquire new information by repeating the information actually harms their ability to apply that learned knowledge to other situations. This finding challenges the popular educational approaches designed for ASD individuals that focus on repetition and drills. Read more here.
Friend of the CNBC Award

Friend of the CNBC Award PhotoThe CNBC is pleased to announce Patricia Maurides as the second recipient of the Friend of the Year award ward for 2015-16. The award, presented to Maurides by Nathan Urban (Pitt co-director of the CNBC) and Marlene Behrmann, the George A. and Helen Dunham Cowan Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience and CNBC faculty member, highlights Maurides’ valued contributions to the CNBC. Her artistic work and teaching blend science and art. She has also co-taught with Behrmann and continues to engage with students to promote scientific literacy through art in courses like “Neurophoto” and “Art and the Brain”. For the CNBC 20th Anniversary celebration, Dr. Maurides curated “Neurons and other memories”, an engaging exhibit showcasing art that engaged with themes from neuroscience and psychology. For more information, please see here.

CNBC and BrainHub Interim Leadership Announcements

Allison BarthThe CNBC is proud that two of its long-standing faculty members are involved in high-profile positions to advance the study of the brain at CMU, the CNBC and in Pittsburgh. Alison Barth (CMU Biology) is serving as interim director of Brain Hub. Brain Hub is a new initiative at CMU that aims to promote research across disciplines for the study of the brain by providing seed grants and facilitating collaboration.

rob2013.jpgRob Kass (CMU Statistics/Machine Learning) will serve as interim CMU CNBC co-director, taking over from Marlene Behrmann (CMU Psychology). More information can be found here.

New Information Is Easier To Learn When Composed of Familiar Elements

CNBC researchers, led by Professor Lynne Reder, uncover a critical relationship between working memory and the strength of information “chunks”. Published in Psychonomic Bulletin Review, they show for the first time that it is easier to learn new facts that are composed of more familiar chunks.  

“We are suggesting that working memory capacity is not a fixed quantity but interacts with the familiarity of the elements that need to be processed. If everything is very familiar, it is easy to comprehend and build new knowledge. If all of the components are unfamiliar, the task becomes very difficult or impossible,” said Lynne Reder, professor of psychology in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences and a leading expert on memory, cognition and behavior. Reder is also a member of CMU’s Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition (CNBC) and the Human-Computer Interaction Institute. (read more)

CMU CNBC Scientists Visualize Critical Part of Basal Ganglia Pathways

Professor Timothy Verstynen’s latest research involving a non-invasive brain-imaging tool to detect the pathways that connect the parts of the basal gangliaa breakthrough could help see the pathways that degenerate with Parkinson’s and Huntingdon’s disease. Published in NeuroImage, the research provides a better understanding of this area’s circuitry, which could potentially lead to technologies to help track disease progression for neurological disorders. (read more)