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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.

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)

CMU CNBC researchers awarded NSF Grant To Study Neuron Variability and Motor Learning

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded CMU CNBC researchs Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering Steven Chase and Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Biomedical Engineering Byron Yu, and their long-time collaborator, University of Pittsburgh Associate Professor of Bioengineering Aaron Batista, an $869,000 grant to conduct basic research that will establish how variability in movement is encoded in the brain and how this variability contributes to learning and performance.

The CMU-led team, which is made up of researchers from the university’s BrainHubSM initiative and the University of Pittsburgh, will bring together expertise in neuroscience, engineering and computer science to establish a fundamental understanding of neural variability in motor learning. (read more)

CMU CNBC researchers awarded Curci Grant

CMU CNBC researchers Steven Chase (Biomedical Engineering), Aryn Gittis (Biology) and Sandra Kuhlman (Biology) have received a $200,000 grant from the Shurl and Kay Curci Foundation to fund work on developing brain computer interfaces (BCIs) in mice. BCI has in recent years been used in primates to probe neural computation in motor systems and in the development of potential neural prosthetics (e.g. artificial limbs). By developing BCIs for mice, the team intends to bridge the different tools used with primates and with mice to further probe the neural basis of learning, memory and behavior. More information can be found here.

Chirimuuta offers an overview of philosophy’s approach to the problem of color

chirimuuta_small.jpgThe nature of color has long fascinated theorists of the mind: do colors belong to the objects we see around us, or is their existence somehow mind dependent? In a recent book, Outside Color, CNBC faculty member Mazviita Chirimuuta (History and Philosophy of Science, Pitt) explores how the psychology and neuroscience of color vision can help shed light on this puzzle. Trained as a vision neuroscientist, Chirimuuta now largely works in the philosophy of mind and neuroscience. Chirimuuta argues that colours are properties of perceptual interactions involving humans or animals and their environments. Thus they are mind-related but not merely a construct of the mind or brain. More information about the book is available here and a discussion of her work is here  and it is reviewed here