Dissertation Defense: Nedah Nemati
May 31 @ 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM

Dissertation Defense Announcement

Presenter: Nedah Nemati
Dissertation Title: Lived Experience in the Behavioral Neuroscience of Sleep: Conceptual, Methodological, and Ethical Implications

Program: Department of the History and Philosophy of Science, University of Pittsburgh

Date: May 31, 2022
Time: 11:00 AM
Location: Zoom
Zoom link: 


Dissertation Directors: Mazviita Chirimuuta, PhD and Colin Alllen, PhD
Michael Dietrich, PhD
James Woodward, PhD

Neuroscience is widely thought to shed light on core questions about what it means to be human.

The neuroscience literature is also animated by an urgency to render our behaviors knowable
through the discipline’s tools and procedures. For example, by studying insect sleep, scientists
seek to understand – and in some ways succeed in characterizing – a human process long deemed
inaccessible and the opposite of consciousness.

Meanwhile, key questions – What is sleep? Where is sleep? Why do humans do it? How can
sleep be improved? – resist compact answers and demand novel philosophical insight to link
neuroscientific facts to our behavioral experiences.

This dissertation applies historical and philosophical approaches to the neuroscientific study of
sleep to argue that explaining behavioral experiences relies on lived experience. Examining the
study of insect sleep, the first half of the dissertation explores the necessity of these lived
experiences in neurobiological studies today, as well as how they have taken shape in the past.
The second half of the dissertation then investigates what is lost – philosophically, scientifically,
and socially – when the role of lived experience is neglected in empirical investigations.

PhD Dissertation Defense: Michelle Heusser
Jun 3 @ 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM

PhD Dissertation Defense: Michelle Heusser 

Bioengineering Graduate Program
Advisor: Professor Neeraj Gandhi 

Title:  Neural Population Dynamics of Sensorimotor Signals for Eye Movements” 

Date:  Friday, June 3, 2022 11:00 AM 

Benedum Hall, Room 102 


Committee Chair:
 Neeraj Gandhi, PhD, Professor, Department of Bioengineering 

Committee Members: Aaron Batista, PhD, Professor, Department of Bioengineering

Matthew Smith, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University

Byron Yu, PhD, Professor, Departments of Electrical & Computer Engineering and Biomedical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University 

ABSTRACT: During active vision, we convert information about visual objects in our periphery into goal-directed eye movements known as saccades. This process of sensorimotor integration is complex; we must incorporate knowledge about our environment, including the spatial location of the target object and the urgency of saccade initiation. The superior colliculus (SC) is a deep brain structure that is critical for active vision, with most neurons in this area responding to the presence of a visual stimulus and increasing their activity to signal for saccade initiation. In the studies presented in this dissertation, we characterized the combined activity patterns of small populations of neurons in the non-human primate SC across multiple contexts to probe various parameters of active vision. We used simple machine learning techniques (i.e., dimensionality reduction and/or classification) that quantitatively capture the activity pattern across many simultaneously recorded channels. First, we examined the dynamics of population activity during the time between sensation and action and found that activity slowly evolves from a visual-like to a motor-like pattern when a delay is imposed. This sensorimotor transformation signature is robust to perturbations induced by small fixational saccades and is correlated with saccade latency, indicative of a potential mechanism for movement generation. Next, we investigated the impact of behavioral context on the population-level representation during the sensation and action periods of active vision and observed unique encoding of both content (sensation/action epochs) and context (two comparable behavioral tasks). Last, we determined the time course and spatial extent of intended saccade target direction encoding by SC neural populations in an eight-target delayed saccade task. We compared these profiles with a second signal modality – the local field potentials (LFPs), which represent collective activity in a broader region of the SC. Neural spiking activity better encoded target direction throughout the time course of sensorimotor integration than did LFP signals. Population activity during the motor epoch exhibited broader spatial tuning than in the visual epoch, indicative of dynamic encoding of spatial parameters. Taken together, these studies provide foundational knowledge of the SC’s role in the process of active vision.

The 12th International Workshop on Language Production (IWoLP) @
Jun 9 – Jun 11 all-day

* Covid-19 contingency plan: IWoLP 2022 is planned as an in-person conference. If, however, the pandemic imposes serious restrictions for traveling, we will switch to a virtual conference. Registration fees will depend on the final format, but will be kept below $300 for faculty and lower for junior scholars. 


Invited speakers:

Motor speech: Carrie Niziolek, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Lisa Goffman, University of Texas at Dallas.

Handwriting and typing:  Mike McCloskey, Johns Hopkins University; Gordon Logan, Vanderbilt University. 

Sign language and gesturing: Naomi Caselli, Boston University; Cristina Baus, University of Barcelona. 

Origins of language and linguistic diversity: Hannah Sarvasy, Western Sydney University; Adrien Meguerditchian, Aix-Marseille University. 

​Important dates:

Abstract Submission opens on March 21, 2022.

Abstract Submission deadline is April 8, 2022, at 5:00 pm Eastern Time.

Abstract acceptenace notifications will be sent  by April 18, 2022. 

Registration opens on April 18, 2022.

Early-bird registration ends on May 2, 2022, at 5:00 pm Eastern Time.

CNUP Retreat
Sep 9 – Sep 11 all-day
Victor Bearg – Jess Hammer
Oct 20 all-day
Victor M. Bearg Neuroscience Lecture: Jessica Hammer, CMU
Oct 20 @ 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM
Carnegie Prize – Marisa Carrasco
Nov 10 all-day
Carnegie Prize – Marisa Carrasco
Nov 10 @ 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM