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Verstynen, Timothy

Verstynen Assistant Professor, CNBC & Psychology
Carnegie Mellon University

Phone:(412) 268-4615



Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley

Research Interests

Consider the situation of a baseball player at home plate. In order to successfully hit the ball, his brain must rapidly process sensory cues (e.g., the trajectory of the ball), decide on the appropriate response (e.g., to swing or not to swing), and plan the action with a high degree of precision (e.g., put the bat in the right place at just the right time). Dr. Verstynen's research centers on these fast response selection abilities that are at the border of perception and action. Specifically his lab is interested in how the neuroanatomical architecture of brain pathways reflects aspects of their computational functions, with an emphasis on sensorimotor planning and skill learning. Within this framework, his research centers on three main themes:

  1. Selecting or unselecting actions: How do we quickly convert sensory cues into motor plans? How do we stop a planned action? How do these abilities break down in different populations?
  2. Dynamics of skill learning: Why are some skills learned quickly (e.g., visuomotor adaptation) while others require days or weeks of practice (e.g., learning to play a piano)? What are the computational and neural mechanisms involved?
  3. Structure-function associations: Does the topography (i.e., “wiring diagram”) of a neural pathway reveal aspects of its computations? What features predict individual differences in the organization or integrity of these connections?

Recent Publications

  • Verstynen, T., Phillips, J., Braun, E., Workman, B., Schunn, C., & Schneider, W. (in press). Dynamic sensorimotor planning during long-term sequence learning: the role of variability, response chunking and planning errors. PLoS ONE.
  • Gianaros, P., Marsland, A., Sheu, L., Erickson, K., & Verstynen, T. (in press). Inflammatory pathways link socioeconomic inequalities to white matter architecture. Cerebral Cortex.
  • Verstynen, T., Weinstein, A., Rofey, D., Schneider, W., Jakicic, J., & Erickson, K. (in press). Increased body mass index is associated with global decreases in white matter microstructural integrity. Psychosomatic Medicine.
  • Verstynen, T., Badre, D., Jarbo, K., & Schneider, W. (2012). Microstructural organizational patterns in the human corticostriatal system. J Neurophys, 107(11), 2984-95.
  • Greenberg, A., Verstynen, T., Chiu, Y.C., Yantis, S., Schneider, W., & Behrmann, M. (2012). Visuotopic cortical connectivity underlying attention revealed with white-matter tractography. J Neuroscience, 32(8), 2773-2782.
  • Verstynen, T. & Sabes, P.N. (2011). How each movement changes the next: an experimental and theoretical study of fast adaptive priors in reaching. J Neuroscience, 31(27),10050-10059.
  • Verstynen, T. & Deshpande, V. (2011). Using pulse oximetry to account for high and low frequency physiological artifacts in the BOLD signal. NeuroImage, 55(4), 1633-44.
  • Verstynen, T. & Ivry, R.B. (2011). Network dynamics mediating ipsilateral motor cortex activity during unimanual actions. J Cog Neuro, 23(9), 2468-80.
  • Verstynen, T., Jarbo, K., Pathak, S., & Schneider, W. (2011). In vivo assessment of microstructrual topographies in the human corticospinal pathways. J Neurophysiol, 105, 336-346.
  • “Dynamic sensorimotor planning during long-term sequence learning: the role of variability, response chunking and planning errors.” T. Verstynen, J. Phillips, E. Braun, B. Workman, C. Schunn, W. Schneider.  PLoS One 7(10):e47336 (2012).
  • “Increased body mass index is associated with global decreases in white matter microstructural integrity.” T. Verstynen, A. Weinstein, D. Rofey, W. Schneider, J. Jakicic, K. Erickson. Psychosomatic Medicine. 74(7):682-90 (2012).
  • “Competing physiological pathways link individual differences in weight and abdominal adiposity to white matter microstructure.” T. Verstynen, AM Weinstein, KI Erickson, L Sheu, A Marsland, PJ Gianaros. NeuroImage (in press)
  • “Explicating the Face Perception Network with White Matter Connectivity.” JA Pyles, T Verstynen, W Schneider, MJ Tarr.  PLoS ONE 8(4): e61611. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0061611  (2013)