Answering Big Questions about the Brain
“What is the neural basis of cognition, of memory?” Pitt’s Peter Strick asks. “What’s the basis of reading and language acquisition?”
Strick and his colleagues explore those questions at the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition, a partnership between Pitt and Carnegie Mellon University where scientists study how humans think. Codirected by Strick, CNBC combines Pitt’s strengths in basic and clinical neuroscience with those of CMU in cognitive and computational science.
Research by Pitt psychologist Mark Wheeler and his colleagues has shown that human decision making results from individual brain regions performing their specific tasks but functioning collaboratively. Future work based on these findings could lead to a better understanding of how decisions—good and bad—are made and the considerations people put into them.
While Wheeler examines how the brain processes information, Pitt psychologist Julie Fiez studies how the brain processes language specifically and learns new writing systems. In one study, she and her colleagues examined how a brain accustomed to the Western alphabet responds to learning Chinese as compared with how a bilingual Chinese reader responds to English.
Understanding the brain requires seeing it function. Pitt neuroscientist Anthony Grace and his colleagues use advanced imaging techniques to peer into brains noninvasively. Their work with biochemical processes such as dopamine regulation could advance understanding of mental illnesses.