Earl K. Miller
Earl Keith Miller (born November 30, 1962, Columbus OH) is a systems/cognitive neuroscientist, whose research focuses on neural mechanisms of learning, memory, and cognition. Earl Miller is a Picower Professor of Neuroscience with the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory and the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was Associate Director of the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory from 2001 to 2009.
Earl Miller received a B.A. with honors in psychology from Kent State University (1985), M.A. in psychology and neuroscience from Princeton University (1987), and a PhD in psychology and neuroscience from Princeton University (1990). From 1990–1995 he was a postdoctoral fellow in the Laboratory of Neuropsychology at the National Institute of Mental Health.
Earl Miller has won a number of awards throughout his career, including the McKnight Scholar Award (1996), Pew Scholar Award (1996), John Merck Scholar Award (1998), the Society for Neuroscience Young Investigator Award (2000), National Academy of Sciences' Troland Research Award (2000), Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2005), the Mathilde Solowey Award in Neurosciences (2007), and a MERIT Award from the National Institute of Mental Health (2010).
Earl Miller's paper with Jonathan Cohen, “An Integrative Theory of Prefrontal Cortex Function", has been designated a Current Classic as among the most cited papers in Neuroscience and Behavior. His paper with Tim Buschman, "Top-down versus Bottom-up Control of Attention in the Prefrontal and Posterior Parietal Cortices" was The Scientist's Hot Paper for October 2009
In 1995 Earl Miller joined the faculty of the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT as Assistant Professor of Neuroscience and quickly advanced the academic ranks. He received tenure in 1999 and became Professor in 2002. He was appointed to the Picower chair at MIT in 2003. He was Associate Director of the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT from 2001 to 2009, and is Director of Graduate Studies in Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT. He has delivered numerous lectures worldwide, serves as editor, and on the editorial boards of, major journals in neuroscience, and on international advisory boards. He currently serves on the advisory board of NeuroFocus, a Berkeley, California based neuromarketing company.
Earl Miller's research aims to understand how the prefrontal cortex, a neural system located in the frontal lobe of the brain, subserves cognitive control. Cognitive or executive control involves the higher-order processing that comes into play when our behavior has to be guided by plans, thoughts, and goals. This sort of behavior contrasts with the one that is primarily driven by external stimuli or by emotion, as well as with behavior that is stereotypical and automatic. Although the prefrontal cortex (PFC) has long been thought to mediate executive functions in the human brain, the mechanisms through which PFC regulates this goal-oriented, purposeful behavior were not clearly understood.
Research conducted in Earl Miller's laboratory has shown that such cognitive control is manifested in the neural activity in the primate PFC. The activation of PFC neurons can reflect the abstract cognitive process that is guiding behavior during a control-demanding task. PFC neurons, thus, have been documented to represent abstract rules such as "same vs. different", to process the category or quantity of visual stimuli, and to guide the allocation of attentional resources. PFC activity has also been shown to reflect the flexible remapping of stimulus-response associations. These results have arisen through a combination of electrophysiological, psychophysical, and computational techniques.
Miller has innovated techniques for recording from many neurons simultaneously in multiple brain areas. This is a departure from the classic single-neuron recording approach. It allows detailed and direct comparison of neuron properties between brain areas that are not confounded by extraneous factors and examination of the temporal dynamics of activity between neurons. Miller's lab has used this approach to make a number of discoveries of how different brain areas collaborate to produce thought and action. This includes recent discoveries that oscillating "brain waves" may control the timing of shifts of attention and that different items simultaneously held in short-term memory line up on different phases of each brain wave. The latter may explain why we can only think about a few things at the same time.
Earl Miller has made a number of media appearances. For example, he has been quoted in the New York Times, on National Public Radio, he was featured in an article in The New Yorker magazine, and was a guest on the nationally syndicated radio show, The Connection. His work has been featured in numerous news articles such as ABC News, MSNBC, USA Today, and CNN. He is featured in the books How We Decide and The Genius Engine.
- Miller, E.K. and Cohen, J.D. (2001) An integrative theory of prefrontal cortex function. Annual Review of Neuroscience, 24:167–202.
- "April 2008 – Current Classics". ScienceWatch.com. Retrieved October 20, 2011.
- Buschman, T.J. and Miller, E.K. (2007) Top-down versus bottom-up control of attention in the prefrontal and posterior parietal cortices. Science. 315: 1860–1862.
- Akst, Jef. "Cortical crosstalk – The Scientist – Magazine of the Life Sciences". The Scientist. Retrieved October 20, 2011.
- "Nexus of Neuroscience, Engineering, Marketing". NeuroFocus. Retrieved October 20, 2011.
- "The Executive Brain and Decision-Making". YouTube. Retrieved October 20, 2011.
- Wallis, J.D., Anderson, K.C., and Miller, E.K. (2001) Single neurons in the prefrontal cortex encode abstract rules. Nature, 411:953–956.
- Freedman, D.J., Riesenhuber, M., Poggio, T., and Miller, E.K. (2001) Categorical representation of visual stimuli in the primate prefrontal cortex. Science, 291:312–316.
- Nieder, A., Freedman, D.J., and Miller, E.K. (2002) Representation of the quantity of visual items in the primate prefrontal cortex. Science, 297:1708–1711.
- Buschman, T.J. and Miller, E.K. (2007) Top-down versus bottom-up control of attention in the prefrontal and posterior parietal cortices. Science, 315: 1860–1862.
- Pasupathy, A. and Miller, E.K. (2005) Different time courses for learning-related activity in the prefrontal cortex and striatum. Nature, 433:873–876.
- Miller, E.K., and Wilson, M.A. (2008) All my circuits: Using multiple-electrodes to understand functioning neural networks. Neuron 60:483–488
- Buschman, T.J. and Miller, E.K. (2007) Top-down versus bottom-up control of attention in the prefrontal and posterior parietal cortices. Science. 315: 1860–1862, Pasupathy, A. and Miller, E.K. (2005) Different time courses for learning-related activity in the prefrontal cortex and striatum. Nature, 433:873–876., Freedman, D.J., Riesenhuber, M., Poggio, T., and Miller, E.K (2003) A comparison of primate prefrontal and inferior temporal cortices during visual categorization. Journal of Neuroscience, 23(12):5235–5246.
- Buschman, T.J. and Miller, E.K. (2009) Serial, covert, shifts of attention during visual search are reflected by the frontal eye fields and correlated with population oscillations. Neuron, 63: 386–396.Buschman, T.J. and Miller, E.K. (2009) Serial, covert, shifts of attention during visual search are reflected by the frontal eye fields and correlated with population oscillations. Neuron, 63: 386–396.
- Siegel, M., Warden, M.R., and Miller, E.K. (2009) Phase-dependent neuronal coding of objects in short-term memory. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106: 21341-21346
- Vogel, E.K., Fukada, K. In mind and out of phase, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106:21017-21018
- Stelter, Brian (December 20, 2008). "The Flipper Challenges the Crawl". The New York Times. Retrieved October 20, 2011.
- Tugend, Alina (October 24, 2008). "Shortcuts – Multitasking Can Make You Lose ... Um ... Focus". The New York Times. Retrieved October 20, 2011.
- "Think You're Multitasking? Think Again". NPR. Retrieved October 20, 2011.
- "A Home Design Conducive to Longevity". NPR. November 10, 2007. Retrieved October 20, 2011.
- Lehrer, Jonah (August 1, 2011). "Annals of Science: The Eureka Hunt". The New Yorker. Retrieved October 20, 2011.
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- Opinion By Lee Dye (August 26, 2009). "We Learn More From Success, Not Failure – ABC News". Abcnews.go.com. Retrieved October 20, 2011.
- "Study: We learn more from success than failure - Health - Behavior". MSNBC. Retrieved October 20, 2011.
- Neergaard, Lauran (March 29, 2007). "Separate brain areas rule concentration and distraction". USA Today. Retrieved October 20, 2011.
- Marsha Walton CNN Sci-Tech. "CNN.com – Evidence adds up that monkeys can count – September 5, 2002". Web.mit.edu. Retrieved October 20, 2011.
- How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer
- The Genius Engine: Where Memory, Reason, Passion, Violence, and Creativity Intersect in the Human Brain by Kathleen Stein
- Earl Miller's homepage
- Miller's page at the BCS Dept, MIT
- Miller's page at the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory
- Earl Miller Playlist Appearance on WMBR's Dinnertime Sampler radio show April 6, 2005