Why multitasking is BAD for your brain: Neuroscientist warns it wrecks productivity and causes mistakes

  • Earl Miller has advised that people should avoid multitasking altogether
  • Switching between tasks take more mental energy to get back on track
  • They advise removing distractions to overcome the brain’s thirst for new information and to block out time to focus on individual tasks

Read more

Now out from behind the paywall:
http://discovermagazine.com/2016/oct/your-attention-please

Earl Miller wins 2016 Goldman-Rakic Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Cognitive Neuroscience.
https://bbrfoundation.org/annual-prizes#Goldman

Watch a video here:

The Goldman-Rakic Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Cognitive Neuroscience
The Goldman-Rakic Prize was created by Constance and Stephen Lieber in memory of Dr. Patricia Goldman-Rakic, a neuroscientist renowned for discoveries about the brain’s frontal lobe, who died in an automobile accident in 2003.

Earl K. Miller, Ph.D., Picower Professor of Neuroscience, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Building on Pat Goldman-Rakic’s groundbreaking studies, Dr. Miller’s work in primates has broken new ground in the understanding of cognition. Using innovative experimental and theoretical approaches to study the neural basis of high-level cognitive functions, his laboratory has provided insights into how categories, concepts, and rules are learned, how attention is focused, and how the brain coordinates thought and action. The laboratory has innovated techniques for studying the activity of many neurons in multiple brain areas simultaneously, providing insight into how different brain structures interact and collaborate. This work has established a foundation upon which to construct more detailed, mechanistic accounts of how executive control is implemented in the brain and its dysfunction in diseases such as autism, schizophrenia and attention deficit disorder, and has led to new approaches relevant to severe mental illnesses in children and adults.

MIT press release:
http://news.mit.edu/2016/earl-miller-receives-goldman-rakic-prize-in-cognitive-neuroscience-1101

BBRF press release:
https://bbrfoundation.org/news-releases/brain-behavior-research-foundation-honors-nine-scientists-for-outstanding-achievemen-0

Watch Award video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_HxD5ORVQqo&t=4s

Earl K. Miller’s Commencement Address at Kent State 5-14-16

Kent State Professional Achievement Award:

Digital Lives – The Science Behind Multitasking:

Earl Miller is quoted in the New York Times:
What Could I Possibly Learn From a Mentor Half My Age? Plenty (New York Times, Sept 11, 2016)

“But part of the problem was me — a person in her mid-50s trying to learn something new. Earl Miller, a neuroscience professor at the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, explained why progress might be slow.

As you age, your dendrites — the antennas by which neurons receive information from other neurons — begin to shrink, he said. This is especially noticeable in the prefrontal cortex, which handles higher-order brain functions like focusing, staying on task and forming long-term memories.

The decline in these areas begins in your 40s and 50s and worsens from there, he said. This can make it tougher to focus. There’s also more of a limit to how many thoughts people can carry in their heads simultaneously.

“Your mind’s bandwidth is smaller,” he said. “You learn at a slower rate because less information is getting in.”

<But it’s not all bad news>

That sounds depressing. Isn’t there any mental upside to getting older?

Yes, there is, Professor Miller said. Older people tend to be more disciplined and diligent, he said, which can compensate for learning deficits. Based on their greater experience in the world, they are also very good at putting ideas and thoughts into categories — the very basis of knowledge and wisdom.

It’s true: “The older brain is a wiser brain,” he said. But it can also get into a rut because of its lack of plasticity.

The brain is like a muscle that benefits from mental exercises such as learning new things. The more you put your brain through its paces, the easier it will be to learn the next thing. “It’s always important to keep yourself cognitively engaged,” Professor Miller said.

Read a profile of Earl Miller in Discover Magazine (October 2016) here:
Attention, Please: MIT neuroscientist Earl Miller has changed the way we think about working memory — the brain’s scratchpad.

Earl Miller Discover brain

From 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

On August 9, 2016, I released a public statement rebutting three allegations made about Professor Suzanne Corkin in the New York Times Magazine article, “The Brain that Couldn’t Remember,” by Mr. Luke Dittrich and that are reiterated in the book “Patient H.M.”   I fully stand by that earlier statement and it remains on our public web site.  However, I here share additional information that further rebuts the allegations against Professor Corkin.

1. Allegation that research records were or would be destroyed or shredded.  The evidence argues that this allegation is false.
Mr. Dittrich recorded an interview with Professor Corkin in which she says that she shredded H.M.-related material. But at the end of the interview, Professor Corkin says, “We kept the H.M. stuff” (this statement was in the recording posted by Mr. Dittrich but not in the transcript he included in the article). Her last statement is consistent with the voluminous research records that have actually been maintained. A former member of Professor Corkin’s laboratory, highly familiar with the H.M. documents, has reviewed photographs of the many file drawer contents and reported that all the files appear to still be there.  Professor Corkin’s assistant throughout this period (before and during her illness) reports that she was instructed to carefully maintain all records.  All the evidence we were able to find, from those who worked with Professor Corkin and from reviewing the actual filing cabinets filled with data from research with Henry Molaison, indicates that these records were maintained and not destroyed.

Given Professor Corkin’s conflicting statements in the recorded interview, it is regrettable that no one at the New York Times ever asked anyone at MIT about the supposed shredding.  The writer did contact MIT’s news office—but with an unreasonable two-hour deadline, and long after his book had already gone to press.

2. Allegation that Professor Corkin attempted to suppress the finding of an additional injury in left orbitofrontal cortex.  The evidence argues that this allegation is false.
The apparent source of the data suppression allegation was the one collaborator whose relationship to Professor Corkin was marred by conflict.  Professor Corkin’s other collaborators on this work have stated unequivocally that she made no attempt to suppress data during the process of writing up the papers or afterward.  We have interviewed many other scientists involved in the project, and all confirm that the allegations about attempted suppression of a finding are incorrect.  To the contrary, Professor Corkin took a highly professional and timely approach to interpreting the finding and reporting it prominently in scientific and public communications.

It is unfortunate that neither Mr. Dittrich nor the New York Times Magazine reported interviewing the many other, objective sources involved in this research and relied, apparently, on a single source of information from a conflicted collaborator.

Mr. Dittrich’s article implies that the presence of the frontal-lobe injury would fundamentally alter the interpretation of prior findings with Henry Molaison, and that it is for this reason that its presence was supposedly suppressed.  This is incorrect given the widely known and widely accepted science of the field.  The initial, seminal publications indicated, for the first time, that bilateral resection of the medial temporal lobes causes an inability to form memories for new events or facts, without affecting short-term memory on the order of seconds, general intelligence, or the ability to learn certain skills.  These core findings no longer depend on the particularities of Henry Molaison’s brain, because this role of the medial temporal lobe in memory has been validated and extended in hundreds of publications of research with other patients, with more precisely controlled animal studies, and with noninvasive neuroimaging.  Although questions and debates continue about more detailed characterizations of medial temporal lobe functions, the core findings are settled science.  Indeed, since the two publications reporting the additional small, unilateral frontal-lobe injury (Nature Communications, 2014 and Hippocampus 2014), it is noteworthy that neuroscientists have not called for any revision of the interpretation of the core findings with Henry Molaison because those findings are so widely replicated.  When Henry Molaison participated in many experiments with a genial enthusiasm, he often said, “What is learned from me will help others.”   Thanks to his gracious participation in research, and the work of many scientists, including Professor Corkin, what has been learned still stands.

It is regrettable that neither Mr. Dittrich nor the New York Times Magazine reported interviewing leading neuroscientists in the field to ask whether the report of a frontal-lobe injury altered interpretation of the prior publications involving Henry Molaison.

3.  Allegation that Professor Corkin no longer wanted the brain stored at UCSD was because she was unhappy about discovery of a second lesion.  The evidence argues that this allegation is false.
The transfer of H.M.’s brain to UC Davis had nothing to do with efforts to suppress findings, but was instead done in the sprit of open science — to facilitate research by any interested neuroscientists.

H.M. donated his brain to MIT and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) for the purpose of scientific research. MIT and MGH transferred custody to UCSD so that sectioning could be performed and the tissue could be shared with the scientific community for research purposes. The dispute that arose was about the sharing of the tissue and images of the sectioned brain with the scientific community.

MIT, MGH, and UCSD finally resolved the issue amicably by agreeing that the brain be transferred to the custody of a leading brain science researcher at UC Davis.

The three institutions further agreed that a peer committee of scientists from five different institutions would be in charge of distribution of the brain tissue for research. The goal was to facilitate scientific research and public access. Under the terms of this agreement, MIT and MGH have no greater rights to access the brain than any other institution, and the peer committee facilitates and ensures access to the brain tissues and images by the wider research community.

4. Allegation that there was something inappropriate in the selection of Henry Molaison’s guardian.  We know of no evidence to support this allegation.
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 it was Mrs. Herrick and her son Tom Mooney who 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.

Over the last week, we have examined all the evidence we could find about these proceedings, and found nothing inappropriate or contrary to the best interests of Henry Molaison.

Read it on the MIT website

Read the review here

Then, pick up a copy of Suzanne Corkin’s excellent book, Permanent Present Tense

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.

A wonderful tribute to a dear friend

Suzanne Corkin, Who Helped Pinpoint Nature of Memory, Dies at 79

 

Despite Bans, Many Still Text While Driving.  Radio Boston WBUR 90.0 FM
Listen here

NBC’s The TODAY show: This is your brain on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram other digital platforms (1/27/16)

Earl Miller is scheduled to discuss the myth of multitasking on NBC’s TODAY show tomorrow morning (1/27/16).  Tune in (but only if it is not a distraction).

http://www.today.com/

Miller Lab alumnus David Freedman is a winner of the 2016 Troland Research Award from the National Academy of Sciences.  Way to go, Dave!  Well deserved.
http://www.nasonline.org/programs/awards/troland-research-awards.html

Miller Lab alumnus Melissa Warden is a winner of a 2015 NIH New Innovator Award.
http://commonfund.nih.gov/newinnovator/Recipients15

We couldn’t be prouder of her if she were a Little Lebowski Urban Achiever.

Video of Earl Miller for the 2015 Professional Achievement Award from the Kent State University Alumni Association.

2015 Kent State Alumni Awards

And makes his hometown newspaper:
On the Move – The Cleveland Plain Dealer 9-23-15

Siegel, M., Buschman, T.J., and Miller, E.K. (2015) Cortical information flow during flexible sensorimotor decisions.  Science19 June 2015: 1352-1355.

During flexible behavior, multiple brain regions encode sensory inputs, the current task, and choices.  It remains unclear how these signals evolve. We simultaneously recorded neuronal activity from six cortical regions (MT, V4, IT, LIP, PFC and FEF) of monkeys reporting the color or motion of stimuli. Following a transient bottom-up sweep, there was a top-down flow of sustained task information from frontoparietal to visual cortex.  Sensory information flowed from visual to parietal and prefrontal cortex. Choice signals developed simultaneously in frontoparietal regions and travelled to FEF and sensory cortex. This suggests that flexible sensorimotor choices emerge in a frontoparietal network from the integration of opposite flows of sensory and task information.

From the MIT News Office:
Uncovering a dynamic cortex
Neuroscientists show that multiple cortical regions are needed to process information.

Earl Miller is quoted in a Time article about the dangers of multitasking:

You Asked: Are My Devices Messing With My Brain?  Time (May 13, 2015)
http://time.com/3855911/phone-addiction-digital-distraction/

““Every time you switch your focus from one thing to another, there’s something called a switch-cost,” says Dr. Earl Miller, a professor of neuroscience at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “Your brain stumbles a bit, and it requires time to get back to where it was before it was distracted.”  ““You’re not able to think as deeply on something when you’re being distracted every few minutes,” Miller adds. “And thinking deeply is where real insights come from.”