CNBC logo


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.

Neuronal Menagerie: CMU CNBC researchers create large database of neurons and their properties.

urban-headshot.jpgCMU CNBC researchers led by CMU Interim Provost and Dr. Frederick A. Schwertz Distinguished Professor of Life Sciences Nathan Urban and his former postdoctoral research associate Shreejoy Tripathy have created a database of types of neurons and their standardized activity. The data, culled from over 10,000 published papers, is available at and will allow neuroscientists studying the brain to search for known neural types that have the same properties and the published studies investigating those types. For more information, see here.

CNBC Faculty member Marlene Cohen receives 2015 University of Pittsburgh Chancellor’s Distinguished Research Award

Patrick Gallagher, University of Pittsburgh Chancellor awarded a dozen Pitt faculty members with 2015 chancellor’s awards for research, teaching and service.  In the junior scholar category, CNBC faculty member, Marlene Cohen, assistant professor in the Pitt's Department of Neuroscience in the Dietrich school was awarded $2,000 cash prize and a $3,000 grant in support of her research.  Chancellor Gallagher recgnized Marlen's research as “scientifically rigorous, highly creative and novel” work that is making a substantial impact on the field of sensory processing and perception. “Not only have you been extremely successful in obtaining funding for your research, but you have also amply demonstrated that you are an independent, creative and talented scientist who is emerging as one of the true leaders in your field,” he wrote. Read More...

Teaching Science to the Brain: Carnegie Mellon Scientists Discover How the Brain Learns the Way Things Work

brainprocessestechnicalinfo_640x327.jpgCarnegie Mellon University and CNBC members Marcel Just, the D. O. Hebb University Professor of Psychology in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences and Robert Mason, senior research psychologist and lead author of the study have traced the brain processes that occur during the learning of technical concepts. Published in NeuroImage, the findings reveal how new technical knowledge is built up in the brain during the course of different learning stages. The findings foreshadow the capability to assess the effectiveness of instruction and efficiency of learning by monitoring changes in the brain. Read More...

Distinguished University of Pittsburgh Professor of Computational Biology and Professor of Mathematics receives $100,000 Mathematical Neuroscience Prize

ErmentroutBard.jpgCNBC faculty member and University of Pittsburgh Prof. Bard Ermentrout has been selected to be one of two winners who received the $100,000 Mathematical Neuroscience Prize, awarded by Israel Brain Technologies (IBT), a non-profit organization whose mission is to advance brain research and technology.  The Mathematical Neuroscience Prize honors researchers worldwide who have significantly advanced our understanding of the neural mechanisms of perception, behavior and thought through the application of mathematical analysis and theoretical modeling.  The Prize ceremony was held March 11, 2015 at the BrainTech Conference, in Tel Aviv, Israel. Read More...

Carnegie Mellon Professor and CNBC Faculty Member Timothy Verstynen Identified A New Way Several Brain Areas Communicate

newwaybraincommunicates_500x409.jpgDr. Timothy Verstynen and Kevin Jarbo, a Ph.D. student in psychology have identified a new pathway by which several brain areas communicate within the brain's striatum.

Published in the Journal of Neuroscience, the findings illustrate structural and functional connections that allow the brain to use reinforcement learning to make spatial decisions, such as the dorsolateral prefrontal (DLPFC), orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) and posterior parietal cortex (PPC). Communication between these regions is important for abilities like how a baseball player is able to estimate where to swing his bat or how a person finds a car in a large parking lot filled with similar cars.

Knowing how these specific pathways work together provides crucial insight into how learning occurs. It also could lead to improved treatments for Parkinson's disease. Read More...