NSF Awards an Interdisciplinary Approach to Neuroscience

Neuroscience and cognitive science researchers get $16 million in NSF funding.

Posted Oct 08, 2018

Source: istockphoto

Human cognition remains a mystery to untangle. Modern science has yet to explain exactly how the human brain functions. In efforts to advance scientific understanding of the brain, the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced in September 2018, the funding of 18 innovative interdisciplinary projects in neuroscience and cognitive science.  The foci of the projects fall into four categories — “individuality and variation,” “data-intensive neuroscience and cognitive science,” "neuroengineering and brain-inspired concepts and designs,” and “cognitive and neural processes in realistic, complex environments.” To follow is an overview of a few of the innovative neuroscientific projects that were funded.

How Ecology Induces Cognition: Paleontology, Machine Learning, and Neuroscience

Why have terrestrial vertebrate brains, such as in mammals and birds, become greater in size and complexity than water-dwelling fish? Was it because the ability to plan actions towards goals provided a selective advantage on land? What is the underlying brain process involved in planning?

Adopting a point of view from an “evolutionary and computational sensory ecology perspective” and a “commitment to ethologically relevant behaviors,” Malcolm MacIver and Daniel Dombeck at Northwestern University reason that there are “few areas of neuroscience that have as much potential to impact society as research on the neural basis of planning.”

The team plans to research the neural, computational, and behavioral underlying process of planning weaving technologies such as machine learning, and “single-cell resolution imaging of live animal behavior in a virtual reality system.”

Developing underwater EEG electrodes for octopus research

The octopus is a highly intelligent creature, yet it lacks a brain. Understanding the neural substrates of the octopus’ cognitive function may help further advancements in both the human intelligence and artificial intelligence.

Peter Tse at Dartmouth College, Walter Besio at the University of Rhode Island, and Gideon Caplovitz at the University of Nevada, Reno, have teamed up to create the world’s first underwater electroencephalography (EEG) sensors, and protocols for scientific experiments to study the octopus in its natural underwater habitat.

Optoelectronic Tools for Closed-Loop Neuron Ensemble Recording and Control during Complex Behaviors

Optogenetics is a rapidly emerging field in biotechnology that deploys the use of optics and genetic modification to activate and control living cells such as neurons. Guangyu Xu, Davide Moorman, and Geng-Lin Li at the University of Massachusetts, and Ethan Meyers at Hampshire College are teaming up to “combine high precision optoelectronic neural probes with real-time  neural decoding to feedback optogenetic control over animal behavior.” The team seeks to create an optogenetic brain interface with bi-directional neuronal control. This approach combines the disciplines of data science, cognitive neuroscience, optogenetics, and hardware engineering.

Human decision-making in complex environments

Can human decision-making be explained with mathematical models? Johns Hopkins University researchers Ernst Niebur, Sridevi Sarma, and Veit Stuphorn, seek to answer this question by studying recordings of individual brains during the decision-making process. Their research will use human neural recordings of both cortical and subcortical brain regions, computational analysis, and behavioral data.

Here is an overview of all 18 projects that were awarded by the National Science Foundation:

Source: NSF

Copyright © 2018 Cami Rosso All rights reserved.


The National Science Foundation. (2018, September 11). NSF funds new integrative approaches to cognitive science, neuroscience [Press release]. Retrieved from https://nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=296505&org=NSF&from=news (Accessed: 8 October 2018).

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