Mark Churchland, PhD

The brain is not only a remarkable computational organ – capable of feats that stymie the best computers and robots – it is the seat of who we are and all we think. Yet despite such romantic notions, modern systems neuroscience has principally asked how the brain transforms inputs into outputs. This approach has deep historical roots – Descartes, Sherrington – and fabulous modern successes – Mountcastle, Hubel and Wiesel. Yet the brain is clearly more than a glorified input-output device. The neural networks within it do not just respond to external stimuli, they also generate their own activity. A principal goal of my laboratory is to study the neural dynamics responsible for this ability.  In particular, I study how primary motor cortex generates the rich temporal patterns of neural activity that are responsible for moving the body. My laboratory also focuses on translating basic science knowledge regarding dynamics into better ‘neural prostheses’: brain-machine interfaces that directly translate neural activity into movement, thus bypassing an injured limb or spinal cord.

Lab website: churchlandlab.neuroscience.columbia.edu

Grossman Center website: grossmancenter.columbia.edu