Cognitive Neuroscience nsf14514

Cognitive Neuroscience nsf14514

deadline: Feb 25, 2014


The Cognitive Neuroscience program seeks highly innovative proposals aimed at advancing a rigorous understanding of how the human brain supports thought, perception, affect, action, social processes, and other aspects of cognition and behavior. Topics may bear on core functions such as sensory, learning, language, reasoning, emotion, and executive processes, or more specialized processes such as empathy, creativity, representation of self and other, or intentionality, among many other possibilities. Topics may also include how such processes develop and change in the brain.

The program is particularly interested in supporting the development of new techniques and technologies for recording, analyzing, and modeling complex brain activity. Such projects should include a plan for sharing new software and other technologies with the research community at large.

Studies of disease states (e.g., brain damaged patients) may be components of projects supported by this program. However, the emphasis in such projects must be to advance basic scientific understanding of neural mechanisms, and not on disease etiology, diagnosis, or treatment.

The program also intends to foster projects that integrate perspectives across disciplines, e.g., from the cognitive sciences, developmental sciences, biology, computer science, engineering, education, anthropology, physics, mathematics and statistics. For example, projects that involve collaborations among individuals with expertise in one of the cognitive sciences, neuroimaging, neural microcircuitry, and modeling complex systems are strongly encouraged. Other interdisciplinary emphases are also of keen interest.

Examples of appropriate grant proposals include, but are not be limited to, the following. It is to be expected that scientific advances will overtake many of the following issues, and that other research and development matters will emerge as key enablers to progress in basic cognitive neuroscience.

• Approaches addressing research questions with a novel range of techniques (e.g., using neuroimaging, lesion-deficit data, and computational modeling).
• Hypotheses based on cognitive/behavioral/social/developmental research that lead to tests either of systems level or neuro-computational models of psychological processes. The computational models should involve vertical integration over realistic neural circuitry at specified scales.
• Development of new methods for acquisition-time representation of functional neuroimaging data, e.g., providing output which can be used to control online continuous, experimental manipulations of behavioral/cognitive (stimulus) variables.
• Study of the relation between cognitive/behavioral performance and structural features of brain such as white/gray matter ratio, neurotransmitter sites, connectivity maps, unfolded topological models of cortex, morphology, or diffusion tensor imaging.
• Integrated use of techniques involving both human and animal models to provide convergent evidence about a specific research problem (e.g., the neural codes for perceptual representations, the role of endogenous neurochemicals in social bonding).
• Development of quantitative techniques for meta-analysis and modeling of functional neuroimaging data with respect to localization, temporal dynamics, and componential modeling of cognitive/behavioral processes.
• Neuroimaging of the infant and child brain for comparison with adults in order to understand the development of functional brain organization.
• Development of new methods for characterizing the morphology of activation clusters in neuroimaging data (going beyond the stereotactic location of peak activation).
• Comparative gene expression studies in nonhuman primates of the neural regions governing higher cognitive functions within a biological framework.
• Study of the development and character of specialization of brain areas for particular cognitive, perceptual, affective, and action processes.
• Development of new techniques for integrating independent measurements of the dynamic interactions in time and space of specific neural activity.
• Mathematical analyses of stable individual differences in brain organization (e.g., modeling individual differences in localized neural activity for elementary psychological operations).
• Adaptation of advanced experimental psychology methods for adults and children afflicted with neurological or cognitive impairments in order to characterize more fully the effects of dysfunctions of specific brain areas, clarifying thereby the functions of those areas. (For instance, do brain areas compromised by Parkinson’s Disease support non-motor cognitive or executive functions?)
• The effect of environmental factors (impoverishment or enrichment) on the development and function of specific brain areas.
• Development of effective techniques for mapping receptor/ligand binding profiles during cognitive functions such as working memory, selective attention, and implicit memory in healthy humans.


(1) Individual Investigator Research Projects. Many research topics are studied most effectively by individual research scientists or by small teams of collaborating investigators. Investigators are invited to submit proposals that focus on cognitive neuroscience topics, including but not limited to those illustrated above.

(2) Workshops. Workshops will be supported that bring together diverse scientific partners around specific topics. Meetings will be focused on topics that can benefit from intensive small group discussions. It is anticipated that most workshops will require $15,000-$20,000 of support for 12 months, including indirect costs. However, larger requests will also be considered.