Research

Research in the Hirsch Lab at the Yale School of Medicine aims to understand the neural circuitry and fundamental mechanisms of the brain that enable human cognition, language, emotion, decision making, and perception in both healthy/typical individuals and patients with neurological, developmental, and psychiatric disorders. 

Hallmarks of the underlying neural circuits and mechanisms include both large-scale distributed patterns of neural activation, and complex connectivity between the segregated nodes within those patterns. Both are a primary focus of investigations aimed at understanding specific language functions, stimulus generated conflict resolution, emotional control, and dynamic decision-making in typical brains, and related language processes in autism and traumatic brain injury, as well as cognitive control mechanisms in alcohol addiction, obesity, anxiety disorders, and depression. 

While these ongoing fMRI studies focus on segregated and distributed neural processes within single individuals, the Brain Function Laboratory is expanding the paradigm from a single-brain frame-of-reference to a multi-brain frame-of-reference. The investigation of neural adaptations specialized for brain-to-brain/person-to-person communications is a largely unexplored. For these investigations both near-infrared spectroscopy, NIRS, and electroencephalography, EEG, are acquired simultaneously on multiple individuals to record local BOLD signals as well as electromagnetic waveforms using surface optodes/detectors, respectively.

These advances build upon theoretical, technical, and methodological foundations of behavioral and fMRI studies in the laboratory, and open a window-of-opportunity to investigate the neural correlates of dynamic interactions between individuals under natural conditions. The Brain Function Laboratory is currently focused on specific studies of the dynamic coalitions and neural operations that regulate inter-personal dialog and social interactions including conflict, conflict resolution, cooperation, and competition. 

The Brain Function Laboratory was established at Yale University in 2013 under the direction of Professor Joy Hirsch following a transition from the fMRI Research Center within the Program for Imaging & Cognitive Sciences (PICS) also directed by Professor Hirsch at Columbia University.  The Brain Function website is located at http://www.fmri.org.