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COBRE Center for Central Nervous System Function

The NIGMS-NIH funded COBRE Center for Central Nervous System Function focuses on the genetic and neural basis of attention, decision making and action.  

Purposeful human behavior requires attention, decisions and action, all basic functions mediated by brain networks primarily located in the neocortex, but modulated and shaped by sub-cortical processing.  Behavioral and brain mechanisms of attention, including vigilance, orienting and perceptual and action selection, are key gateways into high-level function. Thus, in a general and even specific sense, attention, decision making and the ensuing actions define human mental activities. Deficits in these functions are common in both neurological and psychiatric disorders and can result in a wide range of higher-order behavioral deficits. We have establishd a COBRE Center at Brown University that will investigate the mechanisms of higher-brain function, with a focus on attention, decision making and action and disorders that modify these key systems, using a combination of genetic, behavior, and systems neuroscience approaches. This COBRE consists of five research projects led by junior faculty.  Eric Morrow will investigate the neurobiology of children diagnosed with “difficult-to-treat autism,” a group that often presents with obsessive compulsive behaviors.  Dima Amso will investigate the typical development of visual selective attention and the mechanisms of its disruption in autism spectrum disorder.  Michael Worden will examine selective attention mechanisms resulting from conflict.  Wael Asaad will investigate interactions between neocortex and basal ganglia during attention-based associative decision-making.  Joo-Hyun Song will investigate how multiple neural systems become integrated to select actions, such as choosing to pick up a red instead of a blue pencil. A Design and Analysis Core, (Joseph Hogan, Core Leader) will facilitate the research goals of these projects and benefit the broader community by developing new tools and optimizing existing ones to image brain structure and function with MRI and EEG and neural recordings; and ensuring proper experimental design and analysis procedures across projects. Project leader will individual senior faculty mentors (in once case two) who will provide support and guidance on research, publication, and grant preparation.  The COBRE Center for Central Nervous System Function is a subunit of the Brown Institute for Brain Science.