Center Of Excellence in Cognition & Neural Plasticity

Located in New York City, the Center of Excellence in Cognition & Neural Plasticity at Icahn School of Medicine examines the brain mechanisms of adaptive behavior and mental life. Feeling, thinking, knowing, wanting, planning, understanding, learning, and remembering describe aspects of mental life — the outcome of brain function that we experience from the inside. Behavior is the observable, external outcome of these brain functions in ourselves and others.

The ultimate goal of this Center of Excellence is to understand these neural mechanisms well enough to improve high-level brain function in both healthy people and those with disease. Aging, trauma, and disease can impair cognition and behavior selectively. People with amnesia, for example, can perceive, think, and act normally but cannot remember recent events. Preventing amnesia or restoring memory ability to patients, and improving memory in healthy people exemplify the ultimate goals of the center.

To investigate the brain mechanisms of cognition and behavior, laboratories in this center test animal models of intact and impaired human behavior. For example, like people, most animal species can learn and remember recent events, and such memory abilities can decline with age. Age-related changes to memory are studied in several of the center’s laboratories. 

Not all individuals lose memory with aging, however. Many people (and animals) maintain their mental abilities throughout their lives, proving that age-related memory impairments are not inevitable and suggesting that the biology of aging can reveal how to prevent cognitive decline. Neuroplasticity mechanisms provide an important opportunity.

Using plasticity to improve memory and cognition

The adult brain was once thought to be static — an organ that changed little after development. We now know, however, that the brain changes dramatically throughout the lifespan, and that plasticity mechanisms alter its molecular, cellular, and network organization. Plasticity mechanisms can be adaptive and enhance brain function, or can be pathological. A key goal of this center is to discover how plasticity mechanisms can be controlled to improve adaptive function and prevent or reverse brain pathology that impairs memory or cognition.

The Mount Sinai Center of Excellence in Cognition & Neural Plasticity brings together basic and clinical research that focuses on neural plasticity, from molecular signaling through cellular, circuit, and systems mechanisms that support learning, memory, and ultimately adaptive thinking and behavior.

Because it focuses on the neuronal mechanisms of behavior, this center is both central to and dependent upon each of the others.

Chief Spotlight

Matthew Shapiro, PhD is the Chief for the Center of Excellence on Cognition & Neural, Professor of Neuroscience, and Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine.

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Matthew Shapiro,PhD
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Hess Center for Science and Medicine
9th floor, room 118
1470 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10029