Stories-Brain, Mind & Learning - Carnegie Mellon University


Skills in Action: CMU Psychology Professor Timothy Verstynen recently received a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF). He will use the award to study how the brain learns complex sequential skills, such as the sequence of movements a baseball player uses when he swings or when you learn to type on a keyboard. Read more »

Unreliable Responses: Nathan Urban, the Dr. Frederick A. Schwertz Distinguished Professor of Life Sciences and head of the Department of Biological Sciences at CMU, is working to unlock a piece of the complex puzzle of autism. Urban has received a $250,000 grant from the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative to study the neuronal basis of unreliable sensory evoked responses in a model of autism. Read more »

A Zombie's Brain: CMU's Timothy Verstynen, assistant professor of psychology at the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition (CNBC), is engaged in science outreach that combines two of his favorite things — horror movies and brains. "My actual work looks at how the architecture of the brain gives rise to our actions and our decisions," he says. His undead "research" is all in good fun, but is also a teaching tool that capitalizes on the public's fascination with zombies. Read more »

Absorbing Information: Neuroscientists have long been striving to understand how the brain's microcircuitry makes learning easier for the young. CMU's Sandra Kuhlman and researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of California, Irvine have uncovered surprising behavior by key brain cells. Read more »

Brain Gain: This past April, President Barack Obama announced a new research initiative "designed to revolutionize our understanding of the human brain." To that end, Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsbugh have jointly fostered one of the premier neuroscience research and training programs in the world, the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition (CNBC). The CNBC will celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2014. Read more »

Brains on Trial: Brain imaging has the growing ability to separate truth from lies — and may radically affect criminal justice proceedings in the future. Carnegie Mellon University's Marcel Just recently discussed how he sees brain research playing a role in courtrooms during part two of an innovative PBS series, "Brains on Trial with Alan Alda." Read more »

Vision: With a myriad of online video choices, which one will you click? Sophie Lebrecht thinks she knows — and with Carnegie Mellon University psychology professor Michael Tarr, she's co-founded Neon, a company built on her groundbreaking research. This research demonstrates that the brain's visual perception system guides our decisions unconsciously through the positive and negative information we automatically associate with images. Read more »

Synaptic Development: Students preparing for final exams might want to wait before pulling an all-night cram session — at least as far as their neurons are concerned. CMU neuroscientists have discovered a new intermediate phase in neuronal development during which repeated exposure to a stimulus shrinks synapses. The findings are published in the May 8 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience. Read more »

Revolutionizing How We Learn: John Anderson's research team created an intelligent computer tutor program that was so successful at teaching algebra to high school students, a spinoff company called Carnegie Learning developed the computer tutors as a commercial product. To date, more than half a million students in 2,600 schools around the U.S. have used the tutoring software. It's just one of the many ways the award-winning CMU professor is revolutionizing how we learn — and teaching his students to do the same. Read more »

The Injured Brain: For the first time, scientists at CMU's Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging (CCBI) have used a new combination of neural imaging methods to discover exactly how the human brain adapts to injury. The research, published in Cerebral Cortex, shows that when one brain area loses functionality, a "back-up" team of secondary brain areas immediately activates, replacing not only the unavailable area but also its confederates. Read more »

Troland Research Award: CMU’s Lori Holt has been named a 2013 winner of the National Academy of Sciences Troland Research Award for “studies advancing our understanding of the sensory and cognitive processes that are fundamental to the perception of speech.” The prestigious honor is given annually to two psychology researchers under the age of 40 to recognize extraordinary scientific achievement and to further promote empirical research on the relationship between consciousness and the physical world. Read more »

Synchrony & Autism: Carnegie Mellon University's Marcel Just discusses his research that provides an explanation for some of autism's mysteries — from social and communication disorders to restricted interests — and gives scientists clear targets for developing intervention and treatment therapies. Just's discovery of a lack of synchrony in the autistic brain gives scientists hope for finding a solution for autism. Read more »

Valence Perception: When grabbing a mug out of a cabinet or quickly choosing a pen, what brain processes guide your choices? New research from CMU's Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition (CNBC), recently published in "Frontiers in Psychology," shows that the brain's visual perception system automatically and unconsciously guides decision-making through what is known as valence perception. Read more »

Genetics and Autism: Published in "Nature," a series of studies by researchers, including Carnegie Mellon University's Kathryn Roeder and the University of Pittsburgh's Bernie Devlin, suggests that autism spectrum disorders are caused by variations in multiple unrelated locations within the genome. These findings provide a basis for future gene discovery, diagnostics and therapeutics. Read more »

Unlocking Autism's Mysteries: New research from Carnegie Mellon University's Marcel Just, recently published in the journal "Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews," provides an explanation for some of autism's mysteries — from social and communication disorders to restricted interests — and gives scientists clear targets for developing intervention and treatment therapies. Read more »

Illusion of Courage: We plan to take risks, then we "chicken out." In a new paper in the "Journal of Behavioral Decision Making," Carnegie Mellon University and University of Colorado Boulder scientists argue that this "illusion of courage" is one example of an "empathy gap" — our inability to imagine how we will behave in future emotional situations. Read more »

Coming Home: Michael Tarr practically grew up on the Carnegie Mellon University campus after his father, Joel Tarr, accepted a joint faculty position in the university’s history department in 1967. Today, the younger Tarr is conducting groundbreaking research in cognitive neuroscience using a state-of-the-art fMRI scanner on campus, and has had a hand in launching the Brain, Mind & Learning Initiative at CMU. Read more »

Teaching Gets Smarter: Kenneth Koedinger came to Carnegie Mellon University in 1986 as a Ph.D. student — exploring how software could be harnessed as a teaching tool. Twenty-five years later, more than 500,000 students a year are learning math more easily and efficiently through the cognitive tutors he and colleagues developed. Read more »

Analyzing Autism: Researchers in the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University will join a five-year, $10 million initiative funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The purpose of the initiative is to create novel tools for evaluating social interactions and other behaviors that can be used in diagnosing or treating behavioral disorders such as autism. Read more »

Neuronal Diversity: Much like snowflakes, no two neurons are exactly alike. But it's not their size or shape that sets them apart, it's the way they respond to incoming stimuli. Carnegie Mellon University researchers have discovered that this diversity is critical to overall brain function and essential in how neurons process complex stimuli and code information. Read more »

The Last Frontier: Scientists know that the brain is made up of vast numbers of neurons and that these neurons communicate with each other — but how does all this neural activity give rise to human thought? It's a fundamental question that researchers are working to answer at Carnegie Mellon's Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition (CNBC). Read more »