Behavior and Cognitive Neurosciences

The brain is an information-processing center, and this function is accomplished through distributed networks of neurons. Behavioral and cognitive neuroscience focuses on asking fundamental questions that relate to the acquisition, storage, and utilization of knowledge. When one or more of these processes go awry, they result in neurological conditions that affect functioning in these 3 domains. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that psychiatric disorders are the most expensive of all health problems. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (2015), psychiatric illness affects 1 in 5 Americans, with at least 6% of these individuals suffering from serious disability. The faculty members at the University of Minnesota who do research in this area have devoted significant efforts in order to understand, prevent, and treat psychiatric illnesses. This rich and growing area of expertise in the Graduate Program of Neuroscience has over 35 faculty members working to understand these complex brain processes.

Specific research areas include: interactions between multiple learning systems and dynamics of neural ensembles; brain control of decision making; cortical processing within local cortical regions and how these local circuits give rise to function; motor learning and its neural basis; neural control of complex spatial-temporal sequential behavior; biological processes underlying learning and memory; understanding psychopathology, and neural substrates of fear; learning and memory as they relate to visually guided behaviors; molecular biological control of memory loss in prion and Alzheimer’s diseases; small molecule control of energy homeostasis and obesity; the role of hormones and the neuroimmune system in understanding chronic pain; population encoding for planning and control of movements; neural mechanisms of motor pattern generation; multimodal neuroimaging to study sensory, motor, and cognitive brain function; neural control of decision making; molecular basis of behavior in normal and in affective disorders; how disruptions of brain connectivity influence the pathophysiology, prognosis, and treatment of neuropsychiatric disorders; magnetoencephalography (MEG) to understand long term learning and systems-level brain function; brain-machine interfaces to understand neural communication; development and generation of motor behaviors in simple invertebrate and vertebrate systems; understanding hormone and neuronal control of normal and pathological behaviors including depression, motivation, and addiction; neurotrophic factor control of neurodevelopment and function; functional architecture of the brain as it relates to neural network dysfunction in psychiatric disorders; neural networks that control movement production; energy and substrate utilization in the developing brain; integration of visual, haptic, and motor information during perception and action; dysregulation of cell excitability as it relates to neuropsychiatric disorders; and the novel use of high field magnetic resonance (fMRI) to investigate brain function in real time.