Ester et al addressed the dichotomy of source vs site in visual attention.  The frontoparietal cortex has long been thought to be the “source” of top-down attention signals that enhance activity at “sites” in posterior (sensory) cortex that represent visual stimuli.  They used fMRI, a roving searchlight analysis, and an inverted encoding model to show that stimulus representations are all over the cortex and enhanced by attention.  This calls the dichotomy between source and site into question.

Ester, Edward F., et al. “Feature-selective attentional modulations in human frontoparietal cortex.” The Journal of Neuroscience 36.31 (2016): 8188-8199.

Ibos and Freedman show that spatial and feature-based attention independently modulate activity in area LIP and that they added together. This suggests a common function of gating task-relevant features, whether they are spatial or non-spatial.

Ibos, Guilhem, and David J. Freedman. “Interaction between Spatial and Feature Attention in Posterior Parietal Cortex.” Neuron (2016).

 

 

Letter to the Editor of the New York Times Magazine
by International Community of Scientists
(to be published on Aug 21, 2016)

We are a community of scientists who are disturbed by a recent New York Times Magazine article (“The Brain That Couldn’t Remember”), which describes Professor Suzanne Corkin’s research in what we believe are biased and misleading ways. A number of complex issues that occur in research with humans, from differing interpretations of data among collaborators to the proper disposition of confidential data, are presented in a way so as to call into question Professor Suzanne Corkin’s integrity. These assertions are contrary to everything we have known about her as a scientist, colleague, and friend.

Professor Corkin dedicated her life to using the methods of neuropsychology to illuminate how the brain gives rise to the mind, especially how different regions of the human brain support different aspects of memory. Her scientific contributions went far beyond her work with the amnesic patient H.M. (whose well being she protected for decades), with major contributions to understanding clinical disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. She was a highly accomplished scientist, an inspiring teacher, a beloved mentor to students and faculty, and a champion of women in science.

While her recent passing is a great loss to our field, her passion and commitment continue to inspire all of us. We only regret that she is not able to respond herself.

James J. DiCarlo, M.D., Ph.D.
Peter de Florez Professor of Neuroscience
Head, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences
Investigator, McGovern Institute for Brain Research
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Nancy Kanwisher, Ph.D.
Walter A Rosenblith Professor of Cognitive Science
Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences
Investigator, McGovern Institute for Brain Research
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

John D.E. Gabrieli, Ph.D.
Grover Hermann Professor of Health Sciences and Technology and Cognitive Neuroscience
Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology (HST)
Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences
Investigator, McGovern Institute for Brain Research
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

R. Alison Adcock, M.D., Ph.D., Duke University, Assistant Professor in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
John P. Aggleton, FRS, FMedSci, BA MA Cantab, DPhil Oxo, Cardiff University, Professor, School of Psychology
Michael Anderson, Ph.D., University of Cambridge, MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Senior Scientist and Programme Leader
Jean Augustinack, Ph.D.,  Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Assistant Professor of Radiology
Lars Bäckman, Ph.D., Karolinska Institutet, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience
Jocelyne Bachevalier, Ph.D., Emory University, Division Chief, Developmental and Cognitive Neuroscience
Alan Baddeley CBE, FRS, FBA, FMedSci, University of York, Professor, Department of Psychology
David Badre, Ph.D., Brown University, Associate Professor, Department of Cognitive, Linguistic, and Psychological Sciences
Dave Balota, Ph.D., Washington University, Professor of Psychology and Neurology
C.A. Barnes, Ph.D., University of Arizona, Professor, Psychology, Neurology and Neuroscience
Morgan Barense, Ph.D., University of Toronto, Associate Professor in Cognitive Neuroscience
Lisa Feldman Barrett, Ph.D., Northeastern University, Professor of Psychology
Chandramallika Basak, Ph.D., University of Texas at Dallas, Assistant Professor, School of Behavioral & Brain Sciences
Russell M. Bauer, Ph.D., ABPP/CN, University of Florida Health, Professor and Director, Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology
Mark G. Baxter, Ph.D. Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Professor of Neuroscience
Mark Bear, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Picower Professor of Neuroscience
Sue Becker, Ph.D., McMaster University, Professor, Dept. of Psychology Neuroscience & Behaviour
Marlene Oscar Berman, Ph.D., Boston University School of Medicine, Professor of Psychiatry, Neurology, and Anatomy & Neurobiology
Chris Bird, Ph.D., University of Sussex, UK, Senior Lecturer in Psychology
Emilio Bizzi, M.D., Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Institute Professor, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences
Veronique Bohbot, Ph.D., McGill University, Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry
Edward Boyden, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Associate Professor, Media Arts & Sciences Program; Brain & Cognitive Sciences; Biological Engineering
Jason Brandt, Ph.D., ABPP(CN), The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Professor of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences
Randy L. Buckner, Ph.D., Harvard University, Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience
Silvia A. Bunge, Ph.D. University of California Berkeley, Professor of Psychology
Rebecca D. Burwell, Ph.D. Brown University, Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience
Roberto Cabeza, Ph.D., Duke University, Professor, Department of Psychology & Neuroscience
Gloria Choi, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Assistant Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences
Christie Chung, Ph.D., Mills College, Associate Professor of Psychology
Kwanghun Chung, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering and Brain and Cognitive Sciences
Elisa Ciaramelli, Ph.D., Università di Bologna, Associate professor, Department of Psychology
Nicola Clayton, FRS, University of Cambridge, Professor, Department of Psychology
Neal. J. Cohen, PhD., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Professor, Department of Psychology, Neuroscience Program
Martha Constantine-Paton, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Professor, Departments of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and Biology
Michael Corballis, Ph.D., University of Auckland, Professor Emeritus, School of Psychology
Fergus I.M. Craik, Ph.D., FRSC, FRS, Rotman Research Institute, Senior Scientist
Alice Cronin-Golomb, Ph.D., Boston University, Professor and Director, Vision & Cognition Laboratory
Pr Gianfranco Dalla Barba, M.D., Ph.D., Sorbonne Universités, Neurologist and Professor of Neuropsychology and Cognitive Neuroscience
Sander Daselaar, Ph.D., Radboud University, Assistant Professor, Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour
Robert Desimone, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Professor of Neuroscience and Director, McGovern Institute for Brain Research
Mark D’Esposito, Ph.D., University of California Berkeley, Professor of Neuroscience and Psychology
Adele Diamond, Ph.D., FRSC, University of British Columbia, Professor of Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience
Rachel A. Diana, Ph.D., Virginia Tech, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology
Brad Dickerson, M.D., Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital, Associate Professor of Neurology
John Disterhoft, Ph.D., Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Professor, Department of Physiology
Florin Dolcos, Ph.D., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Director: SCoPE Neuroscience Laboratory
Arne Ekstrom, Ph.D., University of California Davis, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology
Howard Eichenbaum, Ph.D., Boston University, University Professor, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences
Guoping Feng, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Professor of Neuroscience
Guillén Fernandez, Ph.D., Radboud University Medical Center, Professor and Head, Department for Cognitive Neuroscience
Myra Fernandes, Ph.D., University of Waterloo, Professor, Department of Psychology
Bruce Fischl, Ph.D., MGH/Harvard Med/MIT, Professor of Radiology, Affiliated Faculty at CSAIL/HST
Gerald D. Fischbach, M.D., Chief Scientist , Simons Foundation
Paul Fletcher, Ph.D., University of Cambridge, Professor of Health Neuroscience, Department of Psychiatry
Matthew P. Frosch, M.D., Ph.D., C.S. Kubik Laboratory for Neuropathology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA
David A. Gallo, Ph. D., University of Chicago, Associate Chair, Department of Psychology
Adam Gazzaley, Ph.D., University of California San Francisco, Professor, Neurology, Physiology and Psychiatry
Simona Ghetti, Ph.D., University of California Davis, Professor, Department of Psychology and Center for Mind and Brain
Asaf Gilboa, Ph.D., University of Toronto, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest
Kelly Sullivan Giovanello, Ph.D., University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Associate Professor, Cognitive Psychology
Elizabeth Glisky, Ph.D., University of Arizona, Professor of Psychology
Randy L. Gollub, M.D., Ph.D., Massachusetts General Hospital, Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Associate Professor
Neill R. Graff-Radford, M.D., Mayo Clinic, Neurologist
Ann Graybiel, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Institute Professor, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences
John Growdon, M.D., Harvard Medical School, Professor of Neurology, Neurologist, Massachusetts General Hospital
Angela Gutchess, Ph.D., Brandeis University, Associate Professor of Psychology
Stephan Hamann, Ph.D., Emory University, Professor of Psychology
Deborah Hannula, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology
Lynn Hasher, Ph.D., University of Toronto, Professor of Psychology and Senior Scientist, Rotman Research Institute
Yasunori Hayashi, M.D., Ph.D., Brain Science Institute, RIKEN Japan / Kyoto University Faculty of Medicine, Kyoto Japan
Alan Hein, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Professor of Experimental Psychology, Emeritus
William C. Heindel, Ph.D., Brown University, Professor and Chair, Department of Cognitive, Linguistic and Psychological Sciences
Richard Held, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Professor of Experimental Psychology, Emeritus
William Hirst, Ph.D., New School for Social Research, Professor of Psychology
Neville Hogan, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Brain and Cognitive Sciences
Alan Jasanoff, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Professor of Biological Engineering
Mehrdad Jazayeri, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Assistant Professor, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences
Keith Johnson, M.D., Massachusetts General Hospital / Harvard Medical School, Professor Departments of Radiology and Neurology
Marcia K. Johnson, Ph.D., Yale University, Professor of Psychology
Irene P. Kan, Ph.D., Villanova University, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology
Itamar Kahn, Ph. D., Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Assistant Professor, Department of Neuroscience
Narinder Kapur, Ph.D., University College London, Visiting Professor of Neuropsychology
Margaret M. Keane, Ph.D., Wellesley College, Department Head and Professor of Psychology
Elizabeth A. Kensinger, Ph.D., Boston College, Professor of Psychology
John F. Kihlstrom, Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, Professor, Department of Psychology
Marcel Kinsbourne, Ph.D., Tufts University, Research Professor, Center for Cognitive Studies
Robert T. Knight, M.D., University of California Berkeley, Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience
Stefan Köhler, Ph.D., Western University, Professor, Department of Psychology and Brain and Mind Institute
Michael Kopelman, Ph.D, King’s College London, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology, and Neuroscience, Professor
Andre van der Kouwe, Ph.D., Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Assistant Professor of Radiology
Anne Krendl, Ph.D., Indiana University Bloomington, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences
Brice Kuhl, Ph.D., University of Oregon, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology
Dharshan Kumaran, Ph.D., University College London, Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience
Jarrod Lewis-Peacock, Ph.D., University of Texas at Austin, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology
Brian Levine, Ph.D., University of Toronto, Professor, Departments of Psychology and Medicine (Neurology), Senior Scientist Rotman Research Institute, Baycrest
Kevin S. LaBar, Ph.D., Duke University, Professor and Head, Cognition & Cognitive Neuroscience Program
Eric Leshikar, Ph.D., University of Illinois at Chicago, Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology
Harvey Levin, Ph.D., Baylor College of Medicine, Professor, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Yingxi Lin, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Assistant Professor of Neuroscience
J. Troy Littleton, M.D., Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Professor of Biology and Brain and Cognitive Sciences
Bradley C. Love, Ph.D., University College London, Professor of Cognitive and Decision Sciences in Experimental Psychology
Eleanor A. Maguire FMedSci, FRS, University College London, Professor, Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, Principal Research Fellow & Deputy Centre Director
Joseph R. Manns, Ph.D., Emory University,  Associate Professor Department of Psychology
Mark Mapstone, Ph.D., University of California, Irvine, Professor, Department of Neurology
Anat Maril, Ph.D., Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Professor and Head, Cognitive Sciences Program
Elizabeth J. Marsh, Ph.D., Duke University, Professor and Associate Chair Department of Psychology & Neuroscience
Rosaleen McCarthy, Ph.D., University Hospital Southampton, Professor, Department of Clinical Neuropsychology
Mark McDaniel, Ph.D., Washington University, Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences
Josh H. McDermott, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Assistant Professor of Brain and Cognitive Science
Kathleen McDermott, Ph.D., Washington University, Professor of Psychology
Janet Metcalfe, Ph.D., Columbia University, Professor, Department of Psychology
Earl K. Miller, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Picower Professor of Neuroscience
Michael Miller, Ph.D., University of California, Santa Barbara, Professor of Psychological & Brain Sciences
Daniela Montaldi, Ph.D., University of Manchester, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience
Christopher Moore, Ph.D., Brown University, Professor of Neuroscience
Richard G M Morris, CBE, FRS, University of Edinburgh, Professor of Neuroscience
Robin Morris, Ph.D., King’s College London, Professor, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience
Morris Moscovitch, Ph.D., University of Toronto, Professor, Department of Psychology, Senior Scientist, Rotman Research Institute
Elizabeth Murray, Ph.D., Potomac, MD
Lynn Nadel, Ph.D., University of Arizona, Professor of Psychology
Elly Nedivi, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Professor of Neuroscience
Anna Christina Nobre, FBA MAE, University of Oxford,  Head, Department of Experimental Psychology, Professor of Translational Cognitive Neuroscience
Kenneth Norman, Ph.D., Princeton University, Professor of Psychology
Lars Nyberg, Ph.D., Umeå University, Professor of Neuroscience
Noa Ofen, Ph.D., Wayne State University, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology
Jenni Ogden, Ph.D., University of Auckland, retired professor
Ken A. Paller, Ph.D., Northwestern University, Professor of Psychology
Jessica Payne, Ph.D., University of Notre Dame, Associate Professor of Psychology
Michael Petrides, Ph.D., FRS, Montreal Neurological Institute, McGill University
Elizabeth A. Phelps, Ph.D., New York University, Professor of Psychology and Neural Science
Sean M. Polyn, PhD., Vanderbilt University, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology
Bradley R. Postle, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin Madison, Professor, Departments Psychology and Psychiatry
Mary C. Potter, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Professor of Psychology
Drazen Prelec, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Professor of Management and Brain and Cognitive Sciences
Alison R. Preston, Ph.D., The University of Texas at Austin, Associate Professor, Departments of Psychology and Neuroscience
William G. Quinn, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Professor of Neurobiology, Emeritus
J. Daniel Ragland, Ph.D., University of California, Davis, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
Charan Ranganath, Ph.D., University of California, Davis, Professor, Department of Psychology
Stephen M. Rao, Ph.D., Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of CWRU, Professor, Editor-in-Chief, Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society
Suparna Rajaram, Ph.D., Stony Brook University, Professor, Department of Psychology
Naftali Raz, Ph.D., Wayne State University, Professor, Department of Psychology
Paul Reber, Ph.D., Northwestern University, Professor, Department of Psychology
Ivar Reinvang, Ph.D.,  University of Oslo, Department of Psychology Professor Emeritus
Dorene M. Rentz, Psy.D., Harvard Medical School, Associate Professor of Neurology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital, Departments of Neurology
Patricia A. Reuter-Lorenz, Ph.D. University of Michigan, Department Chair and Professor of Psychology
Jesse Rissman, Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles, Assistant Professor, Departments of Psychology, Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences
Henry L. Roediger, III, Ph.D., Washington University, Professor of Psychology
Tim Rogers, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin Madison, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology
Bruce Rosen, M.D., Ph.D., Harvard Medical School, Professor of Radiology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Director Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging
R. Shayna Rosenbaum, Ph.D., C.Psych, York University, Department of Psychology, Rotman Research Institute, Baycrest
Ruth Rosenholtz, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Principle Research Scientist, Brain and Cognitive Sciences
Michael D. Rugg, Ph.D., University of Texas at Dallas, Distinguished Chair in Behavioral and Brain Sciences
Jennifer D. Ryan, Ph.D., Rotman Research Institute, Baycrest, Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Toronto
Lee Ryan, Ph.D., University of Arizona, Professor, Department of Psychology
Sergio Della Sala, Ph.D., University of Edinburgh, UK, Professor of Human Cognitive Neuroscience
David Salat, Ph.D., Harvard Medical School, Associate Professor of Radiology
David Salmon, Ph.D., University of California San Diego, Professor, Department of Neurosciences
Rebecca Saxe, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Professor of Cognitive Science
Daniel L. Schacter, Ph.D., Harvard University, Professor of Psychology
Janet C. Sherman, Ph.D., Massachusetts General Hospital, Chief Neuropsychologist, Harvard Medical School, Assistant Professor
Peter Schiller, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Professor of Medical Physiology, Emeritus
Gerald Schneider, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Professor of Neuroscience
David Schnyer, Ph.D., University of Texas Austin, Professor, Cognitive Neuroscience
Michael N. Shadlen, M.D., Ph.D. Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Columbia University, Professor of Neuroscience
Matthew Shapiro, Ph.D., Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Professor, Department of Neuroscience
Karen Shedlack, M.D., Assistant Professor (part time), McLean Hospital, Harvard Medical School
Arthur P. Shimamura, Ph.D., University of California Berkeley, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience, Emeritus
Daphna Shohamy, Ph.D., Columbia University, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology
Pawan Sinha, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Professor of Vision and Computational Neuroscience
Jon Simons, Ph.D., University of Cambridge, UK, Department of Psychology, Reader in Cognitive Neuroscience
Scott D. Slotnick, Ph.D., Boston College, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, Editor-in-Chief, Cognitive Neuroscience
Scott A. Small M.D., Columbia University, Professor of Neurology
Mary Lou Smith, Ph.D., University of Toronto Mississauga, Professor and Chair, Department of Psychology
Reisa Sperling, M.D., Harvard Medical School, Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School
Hugo J. Spiers, Ph.D., University College London, Reader in Neuroscience
Peggy St. Jacques, Ph.D., University of Sussex, Lecturer in Psychology
Chantal Stern, D.Phil., Boston University, Professor and Director, Brain, Behavior, and Cognition Program Director, Cognitive Neuroimaging Lab
Robert Stickgold, Ph.D., Harvard Medical School, Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Center for Sleep and Cognition, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Edith V. Sullivan, Stanford University, Professor, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
Mriganka Sur, Ph.D., FRS, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Professor of Neuroscience, Director, Simons Center for the Social Brain
Wendy A. Suzuki, Ph.D., New York University, Professor of Neural Science and Psychology
Josh Tenenbaum, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Professor of Computational Cognitive Science
Sharon L. Thompson-Schill, Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania, Professor of Psychology and Chair, Department of Psychology
Li-Huei Tsai, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Picower Professor of Neuroscience and Director, Picower Institute for Learning and Memory
Kay M. Tye, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Assistant Professor of Neuroscience
Faraneh Vargha-Khadem, Ph.D., University College London, Professor of Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience
Giuseppe Vallar, M.D., Università degli studi di Milano-Bicocca, Professor, Dipartimento di Psicologia
Mieke Verfaellie, Ph.D., VA Boston Healthcare System and Boston University School of Medicine, Professor of Psychiatry
Joel Voss, Ph.D., Northwestern University, Assistant Professor, Department of Medical Social Sciences and Ken & Ruth Davee Department of Neurology
Anthony Wagner, Ph.D., Stanford University, Professor, Department of Psychology
Harry A. Whitaker, Ph.D., Northern Michigan University, Professor, Department of Psychology, Editor-in-chief (interim), Lingua
Gagan S. Wig, Ph.D., University of Texas at Dallas, Assistant Professor, School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences
Daniel T. Willingham, Ph.D., University of Virginia, Professor of Psychology
Matthew A. Wilson, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Professor of Neuroscience
Diana S. Woodruff-Pak, Ph.D., Temple University, Professor Emerita of Psychology and Neurology Founding Director
Richard Wurtman, M.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Professor of Neuropharmacology, Emeritus
Weifeng Xu, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Assistant Professor of Neuroscience
Michael A. Yassa, Ph.D., University of California, Irvine, Associate Professor, Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, Ayala School of Biological Sciences, Department of Neurology, School of Medicine
Andrew Yonelinas, Ph.D., University of California Davis, Professor, Department of Psychology
Jeffrey M. Zacks, Ph.D., Washington University, Professor and Associate Chair, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences
Feng Zhang, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Associate Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and Biological Engineering
David A. Ziegler, Ph.D., University of California San Francisco, Research Scientist in Neuroscience

11 Aug 2016
August 11, 2016

Defending a Late Colleague

In The News

New book criticizing a well-known professor of neuroscience at MIT who died this year sparks ire and an unusual public response from her colleagues.  Inside Higher Ed (Aug 11, 2016)

Yes, we do.  And over 200 neuroscientists from around the world have signed a letter to the NY Times supporting Sue and condemming the NY Times article.

Read about it here:  STAT: MIT challenges New York Times over book on famous brain patient

LETTER/STATEMENT SUBMITTED TO THE NEW YORK TIMES ON AUGUST 9, 2016 FROM PROF. JAMES J. DICARLO, HEAD, DEPARTMENT OF BRAIN & COGNITIVE SCIENCES AT MIT

In the article “The Brain That Couldn’t Remember,” written by Luke Dittrich and appearing on the New York Times website on August 3 and in the Times Magazine on August 7, three allegations are made against Professor Suzanne Corkin, who died on May 24. Professors John Gabrieli and Nancy Kanwisher at MIT have examined evidence in relation to each allegation, and, as detailed below, have found significant evidence that contradicts each allegation. In our judgment, the evidence below rebuts each claim.

1. Allegation that research records were or would be destroyed or shredded.
We believe that no records were destroyed and, to the contrary, that Professor Corkin worked in her final days to organize and preserve all records. Even as her health failed (she had advanced cancer and was receiving chemotherapy), she instructed her assistant to continue to organize, label, and maintain all records related to Henry Molaison. The records currently remain within our department.

Assuming that the interview is accurately and fully reported by Mr. Dittrich, we cannot explain why Professor Corkin made the comments reported in the article. This may have been related to tensions between the author and Professor Corkin because she had turned down his request to examine Mr. Molaison’s confidential medical and research records.

Regardless, the critical point is not what was said in an interview, but rather what actions were actually taken by Professor Corkin. The actions were to preserve the records.

2. Allegation that the finding of an additional lesion in left orbitofrontal cortex was suppressed.
The public record is clear that Professor Corkin communicated this discovery of an additional lesion in Mr. Molaison to both scientific and public audiences. This factual evidence is contradictory to any allegation of the suppression of a finding.

The original scientific report (Nature Communications, 2014) of the post-mortem examination of Mr. Molaison’s brain included this information in the most prominent and widely read portion of the report, the abstract.

In addition, Professor Corkin herself disseminated this information in public forums, including a 2014 interview, posted on MIT News and subsequently elsewhere online, in which she said: “We discovered a new lesion in the lateral orbital gyrus of the left frontal lobe. This damage was also visible in the postmortem MRI scans. The etiology of this lesion is presently unknown; future histological studies will clarify the cause and timeframe of this damage. Currently, it is unclear whether this lesion had any consequence for H.M.’s behavior.”

3. Allegation that there was something inappropriate in the selection of Tom Mooney as Henry’s guardian.
In her book “Permanent Present Tense” (2013), Professor Corkin describes precisely the provenance of Mr. Molaison’s guardianship (page 201).

Briefly, in 1974 Mr. Molaison and his mother (who was in failing health; his father was deceased) moved in with Lillian Herrick, whose first husband was related to Mr. Molaison’s mother. Mrs. Herrick is described as caring for Mr. Molaison until 1980, when she was diagnosed with advanced cancer, and Mr. Molaison was admitted to a nursing home founded by her brother.

In 1991, the Probate Court in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, appointed Mrs. Herrick’s son, Tom Mooney, as Mr. Molaison’s conservator (Mr. Mooney is referred to as “Mr. M” in the book because of his desire for privacy.) This family took an active interest in helping Mr. Molaison and his mother, and was able to help place him in the nursing home that took care of him.

Mr. Dittrich provides no evidence that anything untoward occurred, and we are not aware of anything untoward in this process. Mr. Dittrich identifies some individuals who were genetically closer to Mr. Molaison than Mrs. Herrick or her son, but it is our understanding that this family took in Mr. Molaison and his mother, and took care of Mr. Molaison for many years. Mr. Mooney was appointed conservator by the local court after a valid legal process, which included providing notice of a hearing and appointment of counsel to Mr. Molaison.

Journalists are absolutely correct to hold scientists to very high standards. I — and over 200 scientists who have signed a letter to the editor in support of Professor Corkin — believe she more than achieved those high standards. However, the author (and, implicitly, the Times) have failed to do so.

James J. DiCarlo MD, PhD
Peter de Florez Professor of Neuroscience
Head, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences
Investigator, McGovern Institute for Brain Research
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Read it on the Dept of Brain and Cognitive Sciences website

A Tale of Science, Ethics, Intrigue, and Human Flaws

Over 200 scientists have signed a letter to the New York Times (below) supporting Sue and condemning the article.  It is a biased and unfair attack on someone who is no longer here to defend herself.

Detailed response from MIT.
MIT News: Faculty at MIT and beyond respond forcefully to an article critical of Suzanne Corkin

News article
STAT: MIT challenges New York Times over book on famous brain patient

Original statement (signed by over 200 neuroscientists):

We are a community of scientists who are disturbed by a recent New York Times Magazine article (“The Brain That Couldn’t Remember”), which describes Professor Suzanne Corkin’s research in what we believe are biased and misleading ways. A number of complex issues that occur in research with humans, from differing interpretations of data among collaborators to the proper disposition of confidential data, are presented in a way so as to call into question Professor Suzanne Corkin’s integrity. These assertions are contrary to everything we have known about her as a scientist, colleague, and friend.  Professor Corkin dedicated her life to using the methods of neuropsychology to illuminate how the brain gives rise to the mind, especially how different regions of the human brain support different aspects of memory. Her scientific contributions went far beyond her work with the amnesic patient HM (whose well being she protected for decades), with major contributions to understanding clinical disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. She was a highly accomplished scientist, an inspiring teacher, a beloved mentor to students and faculty, and a champion of women in science.  While her recent passing is a great loss to our field, her passion and commitment continue to inspire all of us. We only regret that she is not able to respond herself.

Nice review and test of a hypothesis about the role of transient beta oscillations in cortical processing.

Sherman et al (2016) Neural mechanisms of transient neocortical beta rhythms: Converging evidence from humans, computational modeling, monkeys, and mice

For much of the history of modern neuroscience, it has been a assumed that the neuron is the functional unit of the brain.  But now there is increasing evidence that ensembles of neurons, not individuals, are the functional units.  One line of evidence is that many neurons in higher cortical areas have “mixed selectivity” , responses to diverse combinations of variables; they don’t signal one “message”.  Thus, their activity only makes sense when simultaneously considering the activity of other neurons.  In fact, we (Rigotti et al., 2013; Fusi et al., 2016) have shown that mixed selectivity gives the brain the computational horsepower needed for complex behavior.

In this paper, Dehaqani et al show that simultaneously recorded prefrontal cortex neurons have high-dimensional, mixed-selectivity, representations and convey more information as a population than even individuals.  This was especially true for parts of visual space that were weakly encoded by single neurons.  Less-informative neurons were recruited into ensemble to fully encode visual space.

Prefrontal neurons expand their representation of space by increase in dimensionality and decrease in noise correlation.  Mohammad-Reza Dehaqani, Abdol-Hossein Vahabie, Mohammadbagher Parsa, Behrad Noudoost, Alireza Soltani
doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/065581

Further reading:
Fusi, S., Miller, E.K., and Rigotti, M. (2016) Why neurons mix: High dimensionality for higher cognition.  Current Opinion in Neurobiology. 37:66-74  doi:10.1016/j.conb.2016.01.010. View PDF »

Rigotti, M., Barak, O., Warden, M.R., Wang, X., Daw, N.D., Miller, E.K., & Fusi, S. (2013) The importance of mixed selectivity in complex cognitive tasks. Nature, 497, 585-590, doi:10.1038/nature12160. View PDF »

Yuste, Rafael. “From the neuron doctrine to neural networks.” Nature Reviews Neuroscience 16.8 (2015): 487-497.