Mount Sinai's research on cognition concentrates on understanding how the brain learns and remembers, focuses attention on specific sensory stimuli, and excludes others. In addition, we are exploring how the brain weighs alternative behavioral choices and selects the best one or plans for future needs, just to name a few examples.
This work includes:
- How memory formation modifies gene expression in the brain.
- How brain cells represent information about memory and change their activity as a consequence of learning.
- How networks of brain structures interact to produce complex cognitive behavior.
- How different neurochemical and molecular systems in the brain influence cognitive function.
- How drug abuse affects brain structures and systems involved in cognition.
- How cognitive function emerges during development and how it is affected by advancing age.
Our goal is to understand how the biological functions of the brain give rise to complex behaviors, how disruptions in brain functions lead to cognitive impairments in brain diseases, and to tie together these lines of inquiry to develop new approaches to restore damaged cognitive function. For example, we have identified a novel role for the neuromodulator acetylcholine in recovery of memory function after brain injury.
To accomplish this work, we use a broad array of technical approaches. This includes single-unit and multiple-unit neurophysiological recordings, assays of gene expression and epigenetic mechanisms, optogenetic and pharmacogenetic approaches to modification of nerve cell function, ablation studies with selective neurotoxic and immunotoxic lesion methods, and a broad array of neuroimaging modalities such as fMRI and diffusion imaging. Our work is carried out in a wide range of animal models, as well as in humans. Through collaborations across research groups and departments within The Friedman Brain Institute, we are able to rapidly translate and implement new technical advances across research model systems and accelerate the pace of innovation and discovery.