Research: Focuses on the neurobiological mechanisms underlying cognitive control, and their disturbance in psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and depression.
Areas of Research: Human Neuroscience; Theory and Computation
WOULD YOU PUSH SOMEONE into an oncoming train if doing so would save the lives of five others down the track? Or would you save the five people by flipping a switch that will kill one person down another track? In a study that combines philosophy and neuroscience, Princeton researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to analyze brain activity in people who were asked to ponder a range of such moral dilemmas. Co-authors of the paper are Jonathan Cohen and John Darley, both professors of psychology; Joshua Greene, Brian Sommerville, and Leigh Nystrom.
The results, published in Science (September 14, 2001), suggest that answers to such questions often do not grow out of a reasoned application of moral principles, as has been the long-held view. Instead, they draw on emotional reactions, particularly for certain moral dilemmas. In the study, eighteen people answered a battery of 60 personal and non-personal questions while undergoing MRI scanning. The scanning consistently showed a greater level of activation in emotion-related brain areas during the personal moral questions than during the impersonal moral or non-moral questions.
The researchers also measured how long it took subjects to respond to questions. In the few cases in which people said it is appropriate to take action in the personal moral questions -- like pushing a person off the footbridge -- they tended to take longer to make their decisions. This suggests that these individuals were working to overcome a primary emotional response, the researchers concluded.
Cohen notes that the current study "is a nice example of how cognitive neuroscience -- and neuroimaging in particular -- provide an interface between the sciences and the humanities." Full story.
Research in my laboratory focuses on the neurobiological mechanisms underlying cognitive control, and their disturbance in psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and depression. Cognitive control is the ability to guide attention, thought and action in accord with goals or intentions. One of the fundamental mysteries of neuroscience is how this capacity for coordinated, purposeful behavior arises from the distributed activity of many billions of neurons in the brain. Several decades of cognitive and neuroscientific research have focused on the mechanisms by which control influences processing (e.g., attentional effects in sensory processing, goal directed sequencing of motor output, etc.), and the brain structures upon which these functions depend, such as the prefrontal cortex, anterior cingulate cortex, basal ganglia and brainstem neuromodulatory systems. However, we still have a poor understanding of how these systems give rise to cognitive control. Our work seeks to develop formally explicit hypotheses about the functioning of these systems, and to test these hypotheses in empirical studies. An important motivation for this work is the development of a theoretically sound foundation for research on the relationship between disturbances of brain function and their manifestation as disorders of thought and behavior in psychiatric illness.
COMPUTATIONAL MODELING OF NEURAL MECHANISMS UNDERLYING COGNITIVE CONTROL:
- JD, Dunbar K, & McClelland JL (1990). On the control of automatic processes: A parallel distributed processing model of the Stroop effect. Psychological Review. 97(3):332-361.
- Servan-Schreiber D, Printz H, & Cohen JD (1990). A network model of catecholamine effects: Gain, signal-to-noise ratio, and behavior. Science. 249, 892-895.
- Cohen JD & Servan-Schreiber D (1992). Context, cortex and dopamine: A connectionist approach to behavior and biology in schizophrenia. Psychological Review. 99, 45-77.
- Cohen JD, Romero RD, Servan-Schreiber D, & Farah MJ (1994). Mechanisms of spatial attention: The relation of macrostructure to microstructure in parietal neglect. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. 6(4), 377-387.
- Armony JL, Servan-Schreiber D, Cohen JD, & LeDoux JE (1995). An anatomically-constrained neural network model of fear conditioning. Behavioral Neuroscience. 109(2), 246-256.
- Cohen JD & O'Reilly RC (1996). A preliminary theory of the interactions between prefrontal cortex and hippocampus that contribute to planning and prospective memory. In Brandimonte M, Einstein GO & McDaniel MA (Eds.), Prospective Memory: Theory and Applications. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
- O'Reilly RC, Braver TS, & Cohen JD (1999). A biologically-based neural network model of working memory. In Shah P & Miyake A (Eds.), Models of Working Memory. Cambridge University Press.
- Usher M, Cohen JD, Rajkowsky J, & Aston-Jones G (1999). The role of locus coeruleus in the regulation of cognitive performance. Science. 283, 549-554.
- Braver TS & Cohen JD (2000). On the control of control: The role of dopamine in regulating prefrontal function and working memory. In Monsell S & Driver J (Eds.), Attention and Performance XVIII; Control of cognitive processes. Pp.713-737.
- Miller EK & Cohen JD (2001). An integrative theory of prefrontal cortex function. Annual Review of Neuroscience. 24:167-202.
- Botvinick, MM, Braver TS, Carter CS, Barch DM & Cohen JD (2001). Conflict monitoring and cognitive control. Psychological Review. 108(3) 624-652.
- Cohen JD, Braver TS & Brown JW (2002). Computational perspectives on dopamine function in prefrontal cortex. Current Opinion in Neurobiology, 12, 223-229.
- O'Reilly RC, Noelle DC, Braver TS & Cohen JD (2002). Prefrontal cortex in dynamic categorization tasks: Representational organization and neuromodulatory control. Cerebral Cortex. 12, 246-257.
- Cho RY, Nystrom LE, Brown ET, Jones AD, Braver TS, Holmes PJ, & Cohen JD. (2002). Mechanisms underlying performance dependencies on stimulus history in a two-alternative forced choice task. Journal of Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience. 2(4), 283-299.
- Jones, AD, Cho R, Nystrom LE, Cohen JD & Braver TS (2002). A computational model of anterior cingulate function in speeded response tasks: Effects of frequency, sequence and conflict. Journal of Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience. 2(4), 300-317.
- Gilzenrat MS, Holmes BD, Holmes PJ, Rajkowski J, Aston-Jones G & Cohen JD (2002). A modified Fitzhugh-Nagumo system simulates locus coeruleus-mediated regulation of cognitive performance. Neural Networks. 15, 647-663.
NEUROIMAGING AND ELECTROPHYSIOLOGICAL STUDIES OF PREFRONTAL CORTEX AND ANTERIOR CINGULATE FUNCTION:
- Cohen JD, Forman SD, Braver TS, Casey BJ, Servan-Schreiber D, & Noll DC (1994). Activation of prefrontal cortex in a non-spatial working memory task with functional MRI. Human Brain Mapping. 1, 293-304.
- Barch DM, Braver TS, Nystrom LE, Forman SD, Noll DC, & Cohen JD (1997). Dissociating working memory from task difficulty in human prefrontal cortex. Neuropsychologia. 35, 1373-1380.
- Cohen JD, Perlstein WM, Braver TS, Nystrom LE, Noll DC, Jonides J, & Smith EE (1997). Temporal dynamics of brain activation during a working memory task. Nature. 386, 604-608.
- Berns GS, Cohen JD, & Mintun MA (1997). Brain regions responsive to novelty in the absence of awareness. Science. 276, 1272-1275.
- Braver TS, Cohen JD, Jonides J, Smith EE, & Noll DC (1997). A parametric study of prefrontal cortex involvement in human working memory. NeuroImage. 5(1), 49-62.
- Carter CS, Braver TS, Barch DM, Botvinick MM, Noll DC, & Cohen JD (1998). Anterior cingulate cortex, error detection and the on-line monitoring of performance. Science. 280, 747-749.
- Botvinick MM, Nystrom L, Fissell K, Carter CS, & Cohen JD (1999). Conflict monitoring vs. selection-for-action in anterior cingulate cortex. Nature. 402, 179-181.
- MacDonald AW, Cohen JD, Stenger VA, & Carter CS (2000). Dissociating the role of dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and anterior cingulate cortex in cognitive control. Science. 288, 1835-1837.
- Nystrom LE, Braver TS, Sabb FW, Delgado MR, Noll DC, & Cohen JD (2000). Working memory for letters, shapes and locations: fMRI evidence against stimulus-based regional organization of human prefrontal cortex. NeuroImage. 11, 424-446.
- van Veen V, Cohen JD, Botvinick MM, Stenger VA and Carter CS (2001). Anterior cingulate cortex, conflict monitoring, and levels of processing. Neuroimage. 14, 1302-1308.
- Nieuwenhuis S, Yeung N, Cohen JD (2004). Stimulus modality, perceptual overlap, and the go/no-go N2. Psychophysiology. 41, 157-160.
- Cohen JD and Servan-Schreiber D (1992). Context, cortex and dopamine: A connectionist approach to behavior and biology in schizophrenia. Psychological Review. 99, 45-77.
- Cohen JD & Servan-Schreiber D (1993). A theory of dopamine function and cognitive deficits in schizophrenia. Schizophrenia Bulletin. 19(1), 85-104.
- Servan-Schreiber D, Cohen JD, & Steingard S (1996). Schizophrenic deficits in the processing of context: A test of a theoretical model. Archives of General Psychiatry. 53, 1105-1112.
- Cohen JD, Braver TS, & O'Reilly RC (1996). A computational approach to prefrontal cortex, cognitive control, and schizophrenia: Recent developments and current challenges. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London Series B (Biological Sciences). 351, 1515-1527.
- Carter CS, Perlstein P, Ganguli R, Brar J, Mintun M, & Cohen JD (1998). Functional hypofrontality and working memory dysfunction in schizophrenia. American Journal of Psychiatry. 155(9), 1285-1287.
- Braver TS, Barch DM, & Cohen JD (1999). Cognition and control in schizophrenia: A computational model of dopamine and prefrontal function. Biological Psychiatry. 46(3), 312-328.
- Cohen JD, Barch DM, Carter CS, & Servan-Schreiber D (1999). Schizophrenic deficits in the processing of context: Converging evidence from three theoretically motivated cognitive tasks. Journal of Abnormal Psychology. 108, 120-133.
- Perlstein WM, Carter CS, Noll DC, Cohen JD. (2001). Relation of prefrontal cortex dysfunction to working memory and symptoms in schizophrenia. American Journal of Psychiatry. 158(7), 1105-1113.
- Barch DM, Carter CS, Braver TS, Sabb FW, MacDonald A, Noll DC & Cohen JD (2001). Selective deficits in prefrontal cortex function in medication naïve patients with schizophrenia. Archives of General Psychiatry. 58, 280-8.
- Perlstein WM, Dixit NK, Carter CS, Noll DC & Cohen JD (2003). Prefrontal cortex dysfunction mediates deficits in working memory and prepotent responding in schizophrenia. Biological Psychiatry 58, 25-38.
REWARD, EMOTION AND DECISION MAKING:
- Greene JD, Sommerville RB, Nystrom LE, Darley JM, & Cohen JD. (2001). An fMRI investigation of emotional engagement in moral judgment. Science. 293, 2105-2108.
- Cohen JD and Blum KI (2002). Overview: Reward and decision. Introduction to special i ssue. Neuron. 36(2), 193-198.
- Sanfey AG, Rilling JK, Aronson JA, Nystrom LE & Cohen JD (2003). The neural basis of economic decision making in the ultimatum game. Science, 300, 1755-1757.
- Holroyd CB, Nieuwenhuis S, Yeung N & Cohen JD (in press). Errors in reward prediction are reflected in the event-related brain potential. NeuroReport.
NEURAL NETWORK AND NEUROIMAGING METHODS:
- Cohen JD, Noll DC & Schneider W (1993). Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging: Overview and methods for psychological research. Behavioral Research Methods, Instruments & Computers. 25(2), 101-113.
- Cohen JD, MacWhinney B, Flatt M & Provost J (1993). PsyScope: A new graphic interactive environment for designing psychology experiments. Behavioral Research Methods, Instruments & Computers. 25(2), 257-271.
- Noll DC, Cohen JD, Meyer CH, Schneider W (1995). Spiral k-space MR imaging of cortical activation. Journal of Magnetic Resonance Imaging. 45, 49-56.
- Goddard N, Hood G, Cohen JD, Eddy WF, Genovese CR, Noll DC, & Nystrom LE. (1997). Online analysis of functional MRI datasets on parallel platforms. Journal of Supercomputing. 11, 295-318.
- Genovese CR, Noll DC, Cohen JD & Eddy WF (1997). Estimating test-retest reliability in functional MR imaging I: Statistical methodology. Magnetic Resonance in Medicine. 38, 497-507.
- Noll DC, Genovese CR, Nystrom L, Vazquez A, Forman SD, Eddy WF & Cohen JD (1997). Estimating test-retest reliability in functional MR imaging II: Application to motor and cognitive activation studies. Magnetic Resonance in Medicine. 38, 508-517.
- Fissell K, Tseytlin E, Cunningham D, Karthickeyan I, Carter CS, Schneider W & Cohen JD (2002). Fiswidgets: A graphical computing environment for neuroimaging analysis. Neuroinformatics. 1, 111-125.
- Montague PR, Berns GS, Cohen JD, McClure SM, Pagnoni G, Dhamala M, Wiest MC, Karpov I, King RD, Apple N, Fisher RE (2002). Hyperscanning: Simultaneous fMRI during linked social interactions. NeuroImage. 16(4), 1159-64.
- Bogacz R & Cohen JD (2002). Parameterization of connectionist models. CSBMB.Conte.02.1. Princeton NJ: Princeton University.