The Attention Machine

A new brain-scanning technique could change the way scientists think about human focus.

Chasing Down an Immune Protein in the Brain Could Shed Light on Autism

Fifteen years ago, the proteins that Princeton neuroscientist Lisa Boulanger studies weren’t even thought to exist in the brain. Known as major histocompatibility complex class I, or MHCI proteins, they are essential for an adaptive immune response. The thought at the time was that the brain was an area of the body where the immune system wasn't active--it would be too dangerous if the immune system attacked neurons, cells that cannot be easily replaced. Instead, Boulanger found, MHCI proteins have unexpected, different jobs in the brain, where they are critical for the establishment of normal brain circuits.

FACULTY AWARD: Tank receives Perl-UNC Neuroscience Prize

David Tank, Princeton University's Henry L. Hillman Professor in Molecular Biology and co-director of the Princeton Neuroscience Institute, has received the 2015 Perl-UNC Neuroscience Prize, which recognizes seminal discoveries that advance scientists' understanding of the brain. Tank was recognized for his "discovery of fundamental mechanisms of neural computation," which includes key contributions to the development of novel imaging and computational research methods that are critical for the study brain circuit function.

Human brain keeps memories tidy by pruning inaccurate ones

Forget about it.
Your brain is a memory powerhouse, constantly recording experiences in long-term memory. Those memories help you find your way through the world: Who works the counter each morning at your favorite coffee shop? How do you turn on the headlights of your car? What color is your best friend's house?

Brain Boosters

FOR A LONG TIME, scientists believed that a mammal’s brain stopped adding neurons — the building blocks of the nervous system — soon after birth. When children, teenagers, or adults learned and formed new memories, it was thought, there were changes in the connections between existing neurons, not the creation of new ones. (FULL ARTICLE)

Decoding the Brain

REMEMBER YOUR LAST DATE at the movies? Your memory of that night is a web of associations: The popcorn smell of the theater. Your giddiness. The blue sweater worn by your date. The aftertaste of the work you were doing earlier — a client meeting, an email from your boss. Memory is that web: the moods, sensations, and thoughts of a moment in time. All these coincident details are bound together by the hippocampus, a seahorse-shaped brain region under your temple.

Keys to the Mind

ANYONE WHO STEREOTYPES video gaming as the pastime of slackers might be surprised by how Princeton professor David Tank and his research team delve into the neuroscience of navigation. Two floors below the entrance to the new Princeton Neuroscience Institute (PNI) building, behind a heavy black curtain, lies a virtual-reality game fit for a mouse. During a typical experiment, researchers project a maze, similar to what appears in 1990s-era video games, onto a small curved screen.

Sebastian Seung’s Quest to Map the Human Brain

In 2005, Sebastian Seung suffered the academic equivalent of an existential crisis. More than a decade earlier, with a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from Harvard, Seung made a dramatic career switch into neuroscience, a gamble that seemed to be paying off. He had earned tenure from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology a year faster than the norm and was immediately named a full professor, an unusual move that reflected the sense that Seung was something of a superstar.

How to train your worm to explore the circuits involved in learning

AS AN UNDERGRADUATE, Angelina Sylvain was fascinated to learn that devastating declines in cognition and muscle coordination could be caused by changes in a single gene — the cause of Huntington’s disease. She was intrigued by the fact that brain surgery on an epileptic patient cured him of seizures, but wiped out his ability to form short-term memories.

These remarkable discoveries first drew Sylvain to the field of neuroscience, though she never imagined that her own efforts to understand the human brain would involve training tiny worms.

PNI Faculty Honored

PNI faculty member Yael Niv was one of four professors that received the 2013 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their research careers.

FACULTY AWARD: Two Princeton projects among first NIH BRAIN Initiative awards

Two Princeton University projects are among the first group of studies selected by the National Institutes of Health to receive an overall $46 million in funds related to the federal BRAIN Initiative. Announced in 2013, the BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) Initiative aims to map the activity of all the brain's neurons.

Brain's dynamic duel underlies win-win choices

People choosing between two or more equally positive outcomes experience paradoxical feelings of pleasure and anxiety, feelings associated with activity in different regions of the brain, according to research led by Amitai Shenhav, an associate research scholar at the Princeton Neuroscience Institute at Princeton University. Full Story.