Message from Director Mala Murthy

Mala Murthy

The Princeton Neuroscience Institute (PNI) is at the forefront of discovery into how the brain develops and functions, enabling cognition and behavior. Research at PNI combines expertise from neuroscience, psychology, biology, engineering, and computational science and, as a result, many faculty have joint appointments in PNI and other departments. 

Our commitment to excellence in research is reflected in the diverse and innovative projects undertaken by our faculty. From deciphering the neural circuits that underlie decision-making and social interactions to investigating the neural basis of memory and cognition, PNI labs are making groundbreaking discoveries that have far-reaching implications for our understanding of the healthy human brain and its disorders.

As we strive to push the boundaries of neuroscience, we also prioritize education and collaboration. Our graduate program provides aspiring neuroscientists with a rigorous and supportive environment in which to pursue their studies. Our commitment to collaboration extends beyond the Institute, as we work closely with other departments, centers, and institutes at Princeton University to foster interdisciplinary research and learning.

I encourage you to explore our website to learn more about the exciting work happening at PNI. Whether you are a student, a researcher, a collaborator, or simply interested in the wonders of the brain, there is something here for everyone. 

Mala Murthy

Director, Princeton Neuroscience Institute

Where We Started

Founded in 2004 by co-directors Jon Cohen and David Tank, PNI has emerged as a leader in tackling some of the biggest questions in neuroscience: how the myriad molecules, synapses, cells, circuits and computations of the nervous system function give rise to cognition and behavior. PNI has leveraged unique strengths in computational and quantitative neuroscience, along with the development and application of cutting-edge technology, to grow a highly interdisciplinary Institute devoted to uncovering mechanisms of neural function at the cellular, circuit and systems levels, relating to psychological function and behavior, and to develop a pace-setting undergraduate and graduate program in neuroscience. In 2022, Mala Murthy took over as Director of PNI.


What We Are Doing Now


The human brain is arguably the most complex device in the known universe. It is composed of more than 100 billion neurons, and each of these is a sophisticated computational device in its own right, that is connected with thousands of others, representing a space of potential connections that has been computed to be greater than the number of atoms in the universe, and giving rise to perceptions, thoughts, feelings and actions. Even within a single neuron, networks of biochemical reactions and genetic regulatory elements control the building blocks of network computation—the strengths of synapses between neurons and the ion channel proteins whose dynamics transform synaptic inputs into action potentials that are communicated over long distances to other neurons in the network. PNI bridges scales of thinking/analysis from the cellular/molecular to the mental - focusing on how brains achieve complex feats of sensory integration and attention, decision-making, learning and memory, resilience to stress, the control of motor actions, and the ability to engage in social interactions. The development of new methods has enabled both uncovering the relationships between large-scale gene expression, synapse-level connectivity, brain activity, and behavior, and the development of advanced theoretical models of cognitive function. 

PNI faculty can be organized into five main research areas, although the research of individual faculty may overlap with more than one area - PNI is highly interdisciplinary, and several faculty have joint appointments in Psychology, Computer Science, Physics, or EEB. Faculty also have Associated appointments in QCB, Molecular Biology, Engineering, CSML, etc. PNI is highly collaborative - many faculty work together on team-based projects, and many postdocs and graduate students within the Institute are jointly advised. The majority of faculty are housed in a single building with state-of-the-art shared research and teaching facilities.