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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.

Brain Researchers at White House

CMUAtwhithouse.jpgRepresentatives from Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh - including both CNBC Co-Directors - visited the White House today as part of an Office of Science and Technology Policy event focused on the President's BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) Initiative.

Pitt and CMU's invitations recognizes the work the universities are doing through the CNBC and their recently launched Pitt Brain Institute and CMU's global BrainHub℠ initiative.
The event brought together neuroscientists and representatives from universities, industry, private research organizations and U.S. government agencies.

On the same day CMU and Pitt were represented at the White House, both universities received major boosts (CMU, Pitt receive grants to pick people’s brains): CMU from renowned Pittsburgh philanthropist Henry L. Hillman in the form of a new $5 million gift to support CMU's BrainHub and Pitt in the form of participation in a new $17 million federal project to develop better methods to measure traumatic brain injuries and treatment outcomes.


Carnegie Mellon Team Awarded NSF Grant to Combine Biophysical and Statistical Models of Neuronal Computation

Nathan Urban, interim provost and the Dr. Frederick A. Schwertz Distinguished Professor of Life Sciences, and Robert Kass, professor of statistics and machine learning, have received a $930,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to apply biological and statistical neuroscience approaches in order to create a better overall understanding of how neurons encode information. The research, which is funded by the NSF through the Collaborative Research in Computational Neuroscience (CRCNS) program, is part of Carnegie Mellon's BrainHubSM, an interdisciplinary neuroscience research initiative. Read more...


Flexing the Brain: Carnegie Mellon, Pitt Scientists Discover Why Learning Tasks Can Be Difficult

naturecover_240x297.jpgResearch Could Lead to Improved Treatments for Stroke or Other Brain Injuries

Learning a new skill is easier when it is related to an ability we already have. For example, a trained pianist can learn a new melody easier than learning how to hit a tennis serve.

Scientists from the Center of the Neural Basis of Cognition (CNBC) — a joint program between Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh — have discovered a fundamental constraint in the brain that may explain why this happens. Published as the cover story in the Aug. 28, 2014, issue of Nature, they found for the first time that there are limitations on how adaptable the brain is during learning and that these restrictions are a key determinant for whether a new skill will be easy or difficult to learn. Understanding the ways in which the brain's activity can be "flexed" during learning could eventually be used to develop better treatments for stroke and other brain injuries.

Lead author Patrick T. Sadtler, a Ph.D. candidate in Pitt's Department of Bioengineering, compared the study's findings to cooking.

 To see the CMU press release, follow this link:

(Note: Picture above is from the Aug. 28 cover of Nature.)


CMU Launches BrainHub

Carnegie Mellon University announced the launch of CMU BrainHub℠, a new initiative that focuses on understanding the human brain — one of the grand challenges of the 21st century.

 To see the CMU press release, follow this link:


Neuroscience and Big Data: Carnegie Mellon's Byron M. Yu Describes How To Find Simplicity in the Brain

Byron Yu PictureScientists can now monitor and record the activity of hundreds of neurons concurrently in the brain, and ongoing technology developments promise to increase this number manyfold. However, simply recording the neural activity does not automatically lead to a clearer understanding of how the brain works.

In a new review paper published in Nature Neuroscience, Carnegie Mellon University's Byron M. Yu and Columbia University's John P. Cunningham describe the scientific motivations for studying the activity of many neurons together, along with a class of machine learning algorithms — dimensionality reduction — for interpreting the activity.

 To see the CMU press release, follow this link: