Graduate Training in Neuroscience

Our Neuroscience training area provides students the opportunity to become part of the next generation of scientists to make advances in neuroscience and cognitive neuroscience. Through programmatic interactions with cognitive, social, and developmental psychology, students will be offered a truly interdisciplinary experience that reflects how cutting edge science is done in the 21st century. Faculty labs investigate such topics as the brain basis of learning, memory, motivation, emotion, reproductive behavior, decision making, language, and cognition. These are studied using numerous techniques including behavioral and psychophysiological responses, computational modeling, and functional brain imaging. Courses are also offered on these topics. Students benefit from use of the onsite Rutgers University Brain Imaging Center (RUBIC). It houses a state-of-the-art 3T Siemens Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanner for conducting brain imaging studies such as fMRI. RUBIC also serves the larger neuroscience community, fostering collaborations with additional groups such as the Rutgers University Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience.

Dr. Mauricio Delgado, Professor and Chair, (Behavioral and neural correlates of reward-related processing, with an emphasis on how the affective properties of outcomes or feedback influence choice behavior. using neuroimaging and behavioral and psychophysiological methods.) Research in the lab focuses on the interaction of emotion and cognition in the human brain during learning and decision making. We use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in conjunction with physiological and behavioral measures to investigate: 1) How the human brain learns about value (rewards and punishments); 2) How the brain uses this information to make decisions and guide behavior; and 3) How humans control or regulate their emotions to facilitate learning and decision-making. Studies range from simple processes that can be mapped on to current animal studies (e.g., learning that a stimulus predicts a reward), to more complex processes displayed during social interaction in everyday behavior (e.g., learning to trust someone during an economic exchange).

Dr. William Graves, Associate Professor, (Functional brain imaging of language and reading. Tracking in both space (using magnetic resonance imaging) and time (using magnetoencephalography) how the brain computes sound and meaning from what we see.) In my lab we research the neurobiology of language, with particular emphasis on reading. We seek to answer questions such as, how does the brain translate concepts into speech, and how does the brain map from letter strings to sound and meaning? By understanding these fundamental processes, we hope to ultimately help those with language or reading disorders, such as aphasia or dyslexia.

Dr. Stephen José Hanson, Professor  & RUBIC Director, (Computational neuroimaging, memory and learning, connectionist models, categorization, big data modeling). My research focus is on memory & learning, categorization, connectionist models, neural networks, and more generally cognitive and perceptual modeling.

Barry Komisaruk, Distinguished Professor. Brain activity related to genital stimulation, sexual response, orgasm, and analgesia in women and men, measured by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

Dr. Miriam Rosenberg-Lee, Assistant Professor of Psychology (functional neuroimaging of mathematical cognition; cognitive development; learning disabilities; cognition in autism spectrum disorders; learning and reasoning.). Dr. Rosenberg-Lee directs the Mathematics, Reasoning and Learning Lab and has active projects investigating how children, adolescents and adults learn mathematical information. Combining functional neuroimaging with outside the scanner learning programs, she asks: what brain activity patterns do proficient learners display? How are these patterns different in children with mathematical learning disabilities and autism spectrum disorders? What types of learning programs are most effective in these populations?

Dr. Elizabeth Tricomi, Associate Professor, (Functional neuroimaging of learning and decision making; the influences of affective information on cognitive processing, neural basis of goal-directed behavior). Broadly speaking, my research focuses on the influences of affective information on cognitive processing in the brain. The affective qualities of our experience not only produce subjective feelings that may be positive or negative, but also provide information that allows us to shape future behavior. To understand how the consequences of one’s decisions can be used to determine future actions, I use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate the role of the brain’s reward processing system in feedback-based learning. My work examines contextual influences on learning and decision making, and the neural systems that underlie these processes. For example, my research indicates that the sensitivity of the striatum, a region in the basal ganglia, to reward-related information depends on factors such as whether one feels a sense of agency in producing an outcome or whether a habit has been formed after extensive experience. This research has important implications for understanding how cognitive processes such as learning and decision making are carried out in the normal brain, as well as for understanding how impairments of the brain’s reward processing system may give rise to disorders such as addiction and other compulsive behaviors.