Cognitive abilities, more than any other aspect of our biology, are what make us human. Cognition encompasses memory, emotions, habits, reasoning, imagination, planning -- the processes that make up our mental lives and that guide our choice of actions.
At the McGovern Institute we are exploring many aspects of cognition in both humans and animals. Robert Desimone studies the basis of attention, the ability to concentrate on a task at hand while shutting out irrelevant distractions. Ki Ann Goosens uses rodents to study the basis of negative emotions such as fear and stress, and how these negative emotions may contribute to psychiatric disease. Ann Graybiel studies the neural circuits underlying habitual behaviors, and the ways in which new habits are acquired and lost. John Gabrieli uses neuroimaging to study many aspects of human cognition in health and disease. Alan Jasonoff and Ed Boyden are working to develop new tools that will enhance our ability to both image and manipulate brain activity.