“Our ultimate goal is to understand how the brain controls behavior," says Anne Churchland, an associate professor at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. “We want to measure neural activity from as many neurons as possible,” she says, and “know as much about those neurons as we can.”
In this Meet-the-Expert, she reflects on her career path, beginning as an undergrad through where she is today. She also shares some of the approaches and techniques her lab uses to illuminate the neural circuits underlying decision-making, such as two-photon and widefield imaging, and modeling to interpret neural data and make discoveries. Her lab examines behavior in humans and rodents and measures neural activity in rodents.
She also explains how the work of her lab is made more powerful through the International Brain Laboratory, a team she helped launch comprising 21 experimental and theoretical neuroscientists working in London, New York, and Lisbon.
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Anne Churchland, PhD
Anne K. Churchland is an associate professor at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. In 2010, she became an assistant professor at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. In starting her own laboratory, she began studying decision-making using rodent models to take advantage of emerging tools for circuit dissection which are readily available in rodents. Since then, her laboratory has been a major player in bringing behavioral paradigms to rodents that have been successful in elucidating neural mechanisms in primates. These include perceptual decision-making and multisensory integration. Since joining Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Churchland has received awards from the McKnight Foundation, Pew Charitable Trusts, Klingenstein-Simons Foundation, John Merck Fund, and Chapman Foundations. In addition to her scientific work, Churchland runs science outreach activities at public schools and co-directs the undergraduate research program at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. She also maintains a blog about neuroscience research that is directed at a mainstream audience. It was selected as an official blog for Neuroscience 2013. Churchland received her PhD in neuroscience from the University of California, San Francisco, advised by Stephen Lisberger. She then did a postdoctoral fellowship with Michael Shadlen at the University of Washington in the physiology and biophysics department. Her postdoctoral work focused on mechanisms of decision-making in nonhuman primates and included experimental and theoretical work. The latter was funded by a Pathways to Independence (K99) Award from the National Eye Institute.