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Today at the Mind/Brain Institute
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The Zanvyl Krieger Mind/Brain Institute
|Within the decades ahead We will come to a new understanding of ourselves throught the brain sciences.
All areas of the brain sciences are moving forward at a rapid and accelerating pace. The psychological and brain sciences
are well on the way to understanding the human capacity for memory, perception,
decision, and action, and where these capacities are localized in the human brain.
The great challenge is to understand how the brain does these things -how we remember,
how we recognize new things, how we integrate present and past knowledge, and how we channel our knowledge into action.
The Zanvyl Krieger Mind/Brain Institute has adopted the strategy of investigating the neural mechanisms of higher mental
function through the study of perception.
Perception is the result of a complex interaction between sensory
experience and memory. When we see a landscape we sense its color
and form but what we perceive is the result of attention, expectation,
and prior experience. Perception provides a clear investigative path
toward understanding the mechanisms of higher function. Perception
arises from information provided by the sensory systems, which begin
with mechanisms that are well understood and flow, like rivers into
regions of the brain more clearly related to the operations of memory
and learning than to sensory processing. The initial representation
of the external world in each of the sensory systems is a relatively
simple, almost photographic neural image. For example, the approximately
one million axons of an optic nerve function like pixels in a video
image in which each pixel conveys information about the luminance
and color of a small region of space. However, within about a dozen
synaptic processing steps the relatively simple initial neural representation
of the world is transformed into another, much more complex representation
which makes possible the operations of memory, recognition, association,
and recall that we take for granted. We believe that understanding
how information is represented in the brain is the key to understanding
higher mental function and this is a principal focus of the institute.
However, perception involves more than sensory processing. Attention
-the selection of sensory information for cognitive processing -is
an integral part of the process as is memory itself. Members of the
institute work on all aspects of perception
The Zanvyl Krieger Mind/Brain Institute was founded in 1990 under the leadership of
Dr. Guy McKhann and with a generous gift from Zanvyl Krieger. It is an interdivisional
institute involving the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences and the School of Medicine
with two aims. The first is its scientific aim of investigating the neural mechanisms of higher mental function.
The second is to help unify the brain sciences at Johns Hopkins University.
It has played an important role in the establishment of an undergraduate neuroscience major,
which now has the third largest enrollment in the School of Arts and Sciences,
and it is currently working to help establish a university wide graduate program in neuroscience and cognition.