Carnegie Mellon University

Cognitive Neuroscience Graduate Program

The goal of the Cognitive Neuroscience Ph.D. Program is to train cognitive neuroscientists who deeply understand and integrate cross-disciplinary research findings, perspectives, and tools for the study of mind, brain, and behavior.

The Cognitive Neuroscience graduate program emphasizes:

  • individualized training tailored to the development of flexible and rigorous research and professional skills
  • in-depth training in behavioral, neuroscientific, and computational methods
  • an apprenticeship model that provides a solid foundation to conduct independent research

A unique feature and strength of our program is the opportunity for students to engage in a set of scientific and social events that foster exposure to behavioral, brain, and computational science research that spans Carnegie Mellon University and, through the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition, the University of Pittsburgh.

Our training program positions trainees for successful careers in both academia and industry. Prior cognitive neuroscience graduates hold positions as faculty at research-focused universities and teaching institutions, higher education administration, and a variety of technology and educational companies.

All Psychology Department Faculty may welcome Cognitive Neuroscience PhD students into their laboratories.

These faculty routinely train Cognitive Neuroscience Ph.D. students:


John Anderson

Richard King Mellon Professor of Psychology and Computer Science and University Professor

We use neural imaging (fMRI, EEG, MEG) to study the sequential structure of complex tasks like mathematical problem solving and video games. Machine learning techniques combine imaging data and computational models to track mental processes in the performance of a task.


Marlene Behrmann

Thomas S. Baker University Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience

Behrmann's research program is on understanding the psychological and neural bases of visual cognition, with particular emphasis on the recognition of faces, words and common objects. The research involves a multimodal approach using psychophysics, functional MRI and EEG and different populations including normal and brain-damaged adults and children.


Jessica Cantlon

Ronald J. and Mary Ann Zdrojkowski Professor of Developmental Neuroscience and Associate Professor of Psychology

We study the developmental, evolutionary, and cultural origins of logic and mathematics using fMRI and behavioral methods with children and adults, comparative studies with non-human primates, and cross-cultural research in the Amazon. Our studies test the kinds of computations that are shared among primates, their developmental trajectory, and what makes the human brain unique.


Laurie Heller

Professor of Psychology (Teaching)

My research examines the human ability to use sound to understand what events are happening in the environment. My perceptual experiments address whether there are acoustic cues that reveal attributes of sound events, and how our knowledge of these cue-attribute relationships influences our discrimination of sounds, labeling of sounds, and multimodal perception.


Lori Holt

Chair, Departmental Strategic Planning Committee and Professor of Psychology and the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition

We want to understand how the human brain makes sense of sound. Current projects include examination of auditory selective attention across human cortex and understanding the neurobiological systems that support learning of statistically-structured sounds like speech in first and second language acquisition.


Marcel Just

D.O. Hebb Professor of Psychology, University Professor and Professor of Psychology

My research uses fMRI (and occasionally EEG) to determine how concepts, sentences and other knowledge structures are neurally represented, ultimately decoding thoughts from their fMRI signature. I am also investigating the applications of this approach to psychiatric alterations of concepts  (particularly in suicidal ideation) and in the representation and learning of scientific concepts.


David Klahr

Walter van Dyke Bingham Professor of Cognitive Development and Education Science, Emeritus

I study the development of scientific thinking in children.  Specific projects range from basic studies of the development of curiosity and question-asking skills, to more applied investigations of the construction of adaptive, intelligent programs that can guide students through the process of designing and evaluating experiments in a variety of domains.


Roberta Klatzky

Charles J. Queenan, Jr. University Professor of Psychology and Human-Computer Interaction

I study how humans form perceptual representations in multiple sensory modalities and use them to guide action. My work has a strong connection to application, such as aiding blind people in navigation or augmenting surgery with touch and visual displays.


Brad Mahon

Associate Professor of Psychology

I work on the organization of object concepts in the brain, and how the brain recovers from injury. 


David Plaut

Professor of Psychology and the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition

My research involves using computational (neural-network) modeling, complemented by behavioral, neuropsychological, and neuroimaging studies, to investigate the neural basis of cognitive processing in the domains of high-level vision, reading and language, and semantics, over the course of development, in skilled adults, and in patients with brain damage.


Lynne Reder

Professor of Psychology


Barbara Shinn-Cunningham

Professor of Psychology (Courtesy)

I work on auditory neuroscience, especially auditory attention and communicating in complex environments, using EEG, MEG, fMRI, behavioral, and computational methods.


Michael J. Tarr

Kavčić-Moura Professor of Cognitive and Brain Science, Head of the Department of Psychology, Professor of Psychology and the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition, and Professor of Machine Learning (Courtesy)

Using tools drawn from machine learning, computer vision, computer graphics, cognitive science and neuroimaging we are exploring how high-level structures within biological vision systems arise given minimal conditions, as well as how such models can help us to better understand the processes that underlie vision.


Timothy Verstynen

Associate Professor of Psychology and the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition

My lab studies how the architecture of cortical and subcortical circuits gives rise to the algorithms of decision-making and learning. We apply this understanding in the context of health neuroscience and artificial intelligence.