Daphna Shohamy is Director and CEO of the Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute. In this role, she works with Co-director Richard Axel, on the scientific, financial and administrative management of the Institute. She is also working to establish and direct a new cognitive neuroscience center. In 2021, Columbia University named Dr. Shohamy to lead its Kavli Institute for Brain Science and appointed her Kavli Professor of Brain Science. She is a principal investigator at the Institute, a valued teacher and mentor in the Department of Psychology and a member of the training faculty for the Columbia Doctoral Program in Neurobiology and Behavior. She is also an important contributor to undergraduate education at Columbia, teaching the science of the brain and mind to the entire incoming class of college students as part of Columbia’s Core Frontiers of Science course.
The interdisciplinary research in Dr. Shohamy’s lab explores how we learn from experience, how we form memories and how past experience shapes our decisions. Her lab investigates these questions by combining functional magnetic resonance brain imaging, computational modeling, and studies of patients with neurological and psychiatric disorders. Her research focuses particularly on conditions that involve impairments in decision-making and learning, including Parkinson’s disease, anterograde amnesia and anorexia nervosa. Before coming to Columbia, Dr. Shohamy received a BA from Tel-Aviv University, earned a PhD in neuroscience from Rutgers University and trained as a postdoc at Stanford University. Her research has been recognized by numerous awards, including the McKnight Foundation’s Memory and Cognitive Disorders Award, the Cognitive Neuroscience Society’s Young Investigator Award, the Society for Neuroeconomics’ Young Investigator Award and Columbia University’s Lenfest Distinguished Faculty Award.
Richard Axel is a Nobel laureate; a University Professor; an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Columbia's Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and a codirector of Columbia’s Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute. Dr. Axel obtained an AB from Columbia College and an MD from Johns Hopkins Medical School. In earlier studies, Dr. Axel and his colleagues, Michael Wigler and Saul Silverstein, developed gene transfer techniques that permit the introduction of virtually any gene into any cell. These studies not only allowed for a novel approach to isolate genes but also provided a detailed analysis of how they worked. At the same time, these experiments allowed for the production of an increasingly large number of clinically important proteins. These studies also led to the isolation and functional analysis of a gene for the lymphocyte surface protein, CD4, the cellular receptor for the AIDS virus, HIV.
Dr. Axel then began to apply molecular biology to problems in neuroscience with the expectation that genetics could interface with neuroscience to approach the tenuous relationship between genes, behavior and perception. His studies on the logic of the sense of smell revealed over a thousand genes involved in the recognition of odors and provided insight into how genes shape our perception of the sensory environment; this research earned him the 2004 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Dr. Axel’s current work centers on how the recognition of odors is translated into an internal representation of sensory quality in the brain and how this representation leads to meaningful thoughts and behavior.
Eric R. Kandel is a Nobel laureate; University Professor Emeritus; Founding Codirector of Columbia's Zuckerman Institute; Founding Director of Columbia's Kavli Institute for Brain Science; SagoI Professor Emeritus of Brain Science at the Zuckerman Institute; Professor Emeritus of Physiology and Cellular Biophysics, Psychiatry, Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, and Neuroscience; and a Senior Investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute from 1984 to 2022. A graduate of Harvard College and NYU School of Medicine, Dr. Kandel trained in neurobiology at the NIH and in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He joined the faculty of the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University in 1974 as the founding director of the Center for Neurobiology and Behavior. At Columbia Dr. Kandel organized the neuroscience curriculum. He is an editor of Principles of Neural Science, the standard textbook in the field, now in its fifth edition. In 2006, Dr. Kandel wrote a book on the brain for the general public entitled In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind, which won both the L.A. Times and U.S. National Academy of Science Awards for best book in Science and Technology in 2008. A documentary film based on that book is also entitled In Search of Memory. In 2012 Dr. Kandel wrote The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind, and Brain, from Vienna 1900 to the Present, which won the Kreisky Award in Literature, Austria’s highest literary award. Dr. Kandel’s newest book, entitled Reductionism in Art and Brain Science: Bridging the Two Cultures, published by Columbia University Press, was released in Fall 2016.
To close the gap between our genetic and molecular understanding of the brain and what the social sciences, humanities, and professional disciplines tell us about behavior, we are creating a place for scholarship where a spirit of common inquiry yields extraordinary discoveries.