PNC student Shreejoy Tripathy measures and studies the impact of biophysical diversity. Shown is a rendering of the observed diversity among mitral cells, the main output neurons of the olfactory bulb – each line corresponds to a unique neuron recording, and the set of lines across parameters fully describe each neuron’s response to an arbitrary input.

PNC Student Ashok Litwin-Kumar is using large scale mathematical models of cortical networks and theoretical techniques borrowed from statistical mechanics to investigate how the structure of connections between neurons influences dynamical variability in distinct cortical states. Pictured above are graph diagrams of the wiring between neurons in distinct cortical models, and below is pictured the corresponding spiking dynamics of the models.

PNC Student Gustavo Sudre develops cutting edge machine learning analysis to estimate brain activity during language processing. This figure shows the estimated sources of magnetic activity in the brain 265ms after a subject is instructed to think of the word “hand”.



This is a snapshot from a procedure PNC student Bronwyn Woods is developing to automatically identify cells (regions of interest) in images resulting from two-photon calcium imaging (left). These pictures correspond to a single scale of a multi-scale blob detector that generates candidate cell outlines which are later classified as true cells or false positives (right).


Computational neuroscience brings many ideas and tools associated with computation to the study of the nervous system. Major influences have come from the success of biophysical models of neural activity, the enduring appeal of the brain-as-computer metaphor, and the increasing prominence of statistical and machine learning methods throughout science. Here in Pittsburgh we have an exceptionally large and vibrant community of neuroscientists who develop and/or apply cutting-edge computational methods in their work. We offer a Ph.D. through our Program in Neural Computation (PNC), an undergraduate minor in neural computation, year-long fellowships for CMU and Pitt undergraduates, and a program of summer undergraduate research that draws students from across the U.S. Our research may be described, roughly, as falling into one or more of the following three broad categories:

Modeling of Neurons and Neural Circuits

The synaptic wiring and response properties of biophysically realistic neural networks are extremely complicated, yet they are amenable to both theoretical and experimental investigation. Modeling of neural behavior uses techniques from dynamical systems theory and statistics, with a central goal of elucidating the way information is represented by the diverse patterns of neural spiking activity, which is often labeled neural coding.

System and Cognitive Modeling

System and cognitive models that characterize information processing capabilities of the nervous system aim to further understanding of diverse topics such as sensory coding, memory formation, language processing, visual attention, categorization, problem solving, and object recognition. Theories use reduced frameworks to provide concrete descriptions of the ways large-scale neural activity relates to cognition.

Recording and Analysis of Network Activity

A large number of faculty are interested in collection, analysis, and modeling of large-scale population recording. This creates a reservoir of support for those who want to apply, or get training in, cutting-edge analytical methods. It also produces a broadened notion of computational modeling to include statistical models, which have come to play important roles in contemporary conceptualizations of neural processing.

The computational neuroscience community here at CNBC consists of both faculty whose expertise is primarily computational and those who have expertise in experimental methods as well. Visit the Computational Neuroscience Faculty Directory for contact information.

Those whose expertise is primarily computational include:

  • David Danks (CMU Philosophy and Psychology)
  • Brent Doiron (Pitt Mathematics)
  • Bard Ermentrout (Pitt Mathematics)
  • Geoff Gordon (CMU Machine Learning)
  • Pulkit Grover (CMU Electrical and Computer Engineering)
  • Satish Iyengar (Pitt Statistics)
  • Rob Kass (CMU CNBC, Statistics, and Machine Learning)
  • Pat Loughlin (Pitt Bioengineering)
  • Paul Munro (Pitt Information Sciences)
  • David Plaut (CMU Psychology)
  • Jonathan Rubin (Pitt Mathematics)
  • Cosma Shalizi (CMU Statistics)
  • Aarti Singh (CMU Machine Learning)
  • Dave Touretzky (CMU Computer Science)
  • Valérie Ventura (CMU Statistics)
  • Byron Yu (CMU Biomedical and Electrical and Computer Engineering)

Those whose expertise is primarily experimental include:

  • Susanne Ahmari (Pitt Psychiatry)
  • Alison Barth (CMU Biological Sciences)
  • Marlene Behrmann (CMU Psychology)
  • Carol Colby (Pitt Neuroscience)
  • David Creswell (CMU Psychology)
  • Kirk Erickson (Pitt Psychology)
  • Julie Fiez (Pit Psychology)
  • Aryn Gittis (CMU Biological Sciences)
  • Lori Holt  (CMU Psychology)
  • Marcel Just (CMU Psychology)
  • Sandra Kuhlman (CMU Biological Sciences)
  • David Lewis (Pitt Psychiatry)
  • Bea Luna (Pitt Psychiatry)
  • Bita Moghaddam (Pitt Neuroscience)
  • Carl Olson (CMU CNBC)
  • Mary Phillips (Pitt Psychiatry)
  • Mark Richardson (Pitt Neurosurgery)
  • Walter Schneider (Pitt Psychology)
  • Greg Siegle (Pitt Psychiatry)
  • Peter Strick (Pitt Neurobiology)
  • Natasha Tokowicz (Pitt Psychology)

Those whose expertise is both computational and experimental include:

  • John Anderson (CMU Psychology and Computer Science)
  • Aaron Batista (Pitt Bioengineering)
  • Steven Chase (CMU CNBC and Biomedical Engineering)
  • Marlene Cohen (Pitt Neuroscience)
  • Marc Coutanche (Pitt Psychology)
  • Neeraj Gandhi (Pitt Otolaryngology)
  • Avniel Ghuman (Pitt Neurosurgery)
  • Jon Johnson (Pitt Neuroscience)
  • Charles Kemp (CMU Psychology)
  • Tai Sing Lee (CMU CNBC and Computer Science)
  • Tom Mitchell (CMU Machine Learning)
  • Anne-Marie Oswald (Pitt Neuroscience)
  • Lynne Reder (CMU Psychology)
  • Mark Redfern (Pitt Bioengineering)
  • Andrew Schwartz (Pitt Neurobiology)
  • Matthew Smith (Pitt Ophthalmology)
  • Michael Tarr (CMU CNBC and Psychology)
  • Nathan Urban (Pitt CNBC and Neurobiology)
  • Timothy Verstynen (CMU CNBC and Psychology)
  • Doug Weber (Pitt Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation)