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April 4, 2017 — While there has been significant progress in the science of decision making, less is known about how the brain gathers the evidence it needs — and ignores what it doesn’t — to arrive at a decision. Jacqueline Gottlieb, PhD, a neuroscientist at Columbia’s Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute and associate professor of neuroscience at Columbia University Medical Center, studies attention and information seeking. Dr. Gottlieb has co-authored a new paper, published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, that for the first time identifies cells that control attention and encode the value of information; in other words, how relevant a piece of information is when making a decision. 

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February 23, 2017 — Playing tennis is not an inborn skill. There is no innate stimulus-response wiring in the brain for a killer backhand. And yet humans learn to master the sport, and so many other new types of movement, over both short and long time spans. Rui Costa, PhD, an incoming principal investigator at Columbia’s Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute, wants to know how we build up such a stunning repertoire of behavior and continue to expand upon it throughout our lives.

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NEW YORK, February 9, 2017 — Researchers have found a genetic signature located exclusively in the nerve cells that supply, or innervate, the muscles of an organism’s outermost extremities: the hands and feet. This signature, observed in both mice and chicks, involves the coordinated activity of multiple genes, and is fundamentally distinct from cells innervating nearby anatomical regions, such as more proximal muscles in the limb. The study, led by Zuckerman Institute Codirector Thomas M. Jessell, PhD, suggests that the evolution of the extremities may be related to the emergence of fine motor control, such as grasping — one of biology’s most essential adaptations.

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January 26, 2016 — Art and science have more in common than you might think. Both value people who are willing to think creatively and experiment with new approaches as they explore how the human mind perceives reality. Though artists and scientists may sometimes speak different languages, there is much they can learn from each other.

Columbia’s Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute recognizes the exciting potential of building bridges between these disciplines. In this spirit, Eric Kandel, MD, and the Zuckerman Institute have invited artist Jeff Koons to be the Institute’s first artist-in-residence.

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NEW YORK, December 12, 2016 — Columbia scientists have traced the origins of mysterious signals in the brain that have captivated the functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) community for the last decade. Using a recently developed imaging technique in mice, the Columbia team — led by Zuckerman Institute Principal Investigator Elizabeth Hillman, PhD, revealed synchronized, network-like neural activity coursing around the brain, even when the mouse was ‘at rest.’ The researchers further demonstrated that this neural activity could predict slowly changing patterns of blood flow in the brain, connecting their findings to the enigmatic signals detected in ‘resting-state’ fMRI. Taken together, this research provides a tantalizing new view of brain-wide neural activity that could lead to a better understanding of how distinct brain regions interact with each other, and how these connections — and the way they change with disease — can be studied in the human brain using fMRI.

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