The Human Neuroscience Institute (HNI) promotes and facilitates neuroscience research and educational programs in the Department of Human Development in order to advance our understanding of the neural basis of human behavior across the life span. The institute provides access to infrastructure, tools, and services for neuroscience research, developing opportunities for collaboration in research and for student education in behavioral, cognitive, and social neuroscience. The Institute also communicates and extends the results of the Department's neuroscience research to inform interventions that improve health and well-being.

Brain scans task versus rest


Valerie Reyna, PhD
Director, Human Neuroscience Institute
Professor, Department of Human Development

Faculty Research

Adam Anderson, Ph.D. | Professor, Human Development
Although emotions are central to our lives, we tend to view them as failures of our better rational selves.  Our research considers all emotions as evolutionarily selected biological adaptations, having their own rationality intended to help us navigate the physical and social environment. We apply this approach to all aspects of human behavior, from sensory encoding to moral judgment, using various research tools including genetics, psychophysics, peripheral psychophysiology and functional magnetic resonance imaging.

Charles Brainerd, Ph.D. | Professor, Human Development and Program in Law, Psychology, and Human Development
Research in my lab currently focuses on genetic risk factors for brain atrophy and memory decline in mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's dementia.  A mathematical model that integrates these variables has been developed.  The alleles of the main genetic predictor of MCI and AD, the APOE genotype, are being mapped with three specific retrieval processes (recollection, reconstruction, and familiarity judgment) that control episodic memory.  These mappings yield enhanced prediction of future disease in healthy individuals.

Eve De Rosa, Ph.D. | Associate Professor, Human Development
My work concerns comparative cognitive neuroscience, which is characterized by two related approaches. One is a cross-species approach, comparing rat models of the neurochemistry of attention and learning to humans, focusing on the neurochemical acetylcholine. The other is an across lifespan approach, examining the cholinergic hypothesis of age-related changes in cognition. In particular, we consider the neurochemistry of cognitive processes. In humans, we examine the contributions of the cholinergic basal forebrain, the major source of the neurochemical acetylcholine to the hippocampus and cerebral cortex, to normal cognition. Also in humans, we employ behavioral and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) techniques in populations associated with cholinergic deficiency. Finally, in rats, we employ pharmacological and cholinergic immunotoxic lesioning techniques. 

Marlen Z. Gonzalez, Ph.D. | Assistant Professor, Human Development
My lab looks at the role of developmental context – its affordances and its pitfalls – as the shaper of the adult neural endophenotypes of reward sensitivity, vigilance, and stress coping among others. Since humans are hyper social animals, the developmental context includes not just the physical surroundings of the apartment or house you grew up in, the neighborhood, or the school you went to, but also your social context – the number and quality of your relationships, their stability and predictability. We think that these different “nurture” experiences interact with our genetic makeup and epigenetic mechanisms to produce neural propensities that are meant to be most useful in the predicted adult environment. This is not without trade-offs or consequences and the adult environment predicted by our biology in childhood may not match what it actually is in adulthood. We hypothesize that this may have broad health implications.  Our lab explores these mechanisms, phenomena, and consequences from the lenses of behavioral ecology and evolutionary biology.  

Valerie Reyna, Ph.D. | Professor, Human Development | Director, Human Neuroscience Institute | Director, Cornell MRI Facility
I am a developer of fuzzy-trace theory, a model of memory and decision-making, widely applied in law, medicine, and public health. My recent work has focused on numeracy, medical decision making, risk communication, risk taking, neuroimaging, neurobiological models of development, and neurocognitive impairment and genetics.