Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study

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The Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study brings together researchers from many disciplines to study the phenomenon known as mind. An academic unit of George Mason University, the Institute for Advanced Study also serves as a center for doctoral education in such areas as neuroscience and computational social science. Research at the Institute is funded by agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and the Department of Defense.


Krasnow Institute building front entrance

The Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study of George Mason University was chartered in 1990 as a result of a bequest from Shelley Krasnow, a long-time resident of the National Capital Area. The work of the Institute began in 1993 with a scientific conference, co-sponsored with The Santa Fe Institute (SFI) and hosted at George Mason University. This conference on "The Mind, the Brain, and Complex Adaptive Systems" brought together an unusual group of scientists including two Nobel laureates (Murray Gell-Mann and Herbert A. Simon) and produced new approaches to this frontier in addition to a book published by SFI.[1]

These efforts set the Institute on the path of human cognition within the context of this nexus: the intersection of neuroscience, cognitive psychology and computer sciences.

Current Institute[edit]

MRI viewed from console room

Today, the Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study is home[2] to a scientific community of 100 (many of them Ph.D.’s) all of whom are also either faculty or trainees at George Mason University. The range of their research on cognition spans from molecules to mind. The Institute is housed in a dedicated 60,000-square-foot (5,600 m2) facility on the Fairfax Campus of George Mason which includes extensive wet-laboratories, computer labs, a 3T MRI human brain imaging center, a cellular imaging facility, as well as faculty offices and breakout space. Additional space on the Fairfax campus houses the Institute's Center for Social Complexity.The Institute's facility will be expanded to 90,000 square feet (8,400 m2) with a new wing to house the Institute's Centers and academic programs.

An Academic Unit of George Mason University[edit]

The Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study is also an academic unit of George Mason University. It houses two Mason academic departments: Molecular Neuroscience and the Department of Computational Social Science and plays a key role in two doctoral interdisciplinary doctoral programs, one in neuroscience and the other in social complexity.

The Institute recently hosted the kick-off event for a new initiative, "The Decade of the Mind" which will urge the U.S. Congress to invest in understanding how mind emerges from brain.[3][4][5][6]

The Institute also recently entered into a close collaboration with the Janelia Farm Campus of Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Allen Institute for Brain Science and the National Institutes of Health to develop better methods of reconstructing neuronal architectures.[7]


Various research programs are conducted by many lab groups and centers within the Krasnow Institute. Krasnow investigators seek to provide the research bases that may lead to cures to some of the most devastating brain diseases.

Adaptive Systems Laboratory

Human brains do many tasks much better than the fastest silicon computers—even with much slower components. These applications range from facial recognition to adaptive exploratory behavior (such as a planetary robot might be expected to perform). The overall goal of the Adaptive Systems Laboratory is to identify and analyze the critical properties of complex adaptive systems, the brain being one example, using agent-based modeling and evolutionary computation methods.

Center for Neural Dynamics

Krasnow scientists are helping create novel descriptions of how connected nerve cells interact to create behavior. They have been instrumental in applying techniques from the control of erratic chaotic systems to neuronal networks in an effort to lay a foundation for the eventual control of dynamical diseases such as epilepsy and Parkinson's Disease. This work has been supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the Whitaker Foundation.

The Center for Neural Informatics, Neural Structures, and Neural Plasticity (CN3)

The Center for Neural Informatics, Neural Structures, and Neural Plasticity (CN3) pursues fundamental breakthroughs in neuroscience by fostering neuroinformatic and computational approaches to neuroplasticity and neuroanatomy. By bringing together faculty expertise in these multiple disciplines, the Center provides opportunities for cross-training in neuroscience, psychology, and engineering, both at the graduate and postdoctoral levels. CN3 researchers investigate the relationship between brain structure, activity, and function from the subcellular to the network level, with a specific focus on the biophysical and biochemical mechanisms of learning and memory. In the long term, we seek to create large-scale, biologically plausible network models of entire portions of the mammalian brain, such as the hippocampus, to understand the neural circuits and cellular events underlying the expression, storage, and retrieval of associative memory.

Center for Neuroeconomics

Krasnow scientists are using functional magnetic resonance imaging of the human brain to study human interactions within the context of free-markets. These studies allow, for the first time, the elucidation of a biological basis for economic decisions.

Center for Social Complexity and Computational Social Science Research (CSC/CSS)

Scientific projects at the Center for Social Complexity focus on investigating social systems and processes on multiple scales: groups, organizations, economies, societies, regions, international systems. Researchers use a variety of interdisciplinary tools, including multi-agent systems and agent-based models (including the MASON toolkit in Java), cellular automata and other social simulation methods, network and graph-theoretic models, GIS (geographic information systems), events data analysis, complexity-theoretic models and other advanced computational methods. The Center houses a specialized simulation environment (the Simulatorium), where faculty, postdoctoral researchers, and graduate research assistants collaborate in a variety of projects. Conflict and cooperation, emergent economic systems, network dynamics, and long-term societal adaptation to environmental change are among the current lines of investigation. Funding for the Center is provided by grants from the US National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense, and other agencies. (*see also: Department of Computational Social Science). The center does work in Computational sociology.

Comparative Neuroanatomy Laboratory

The Comparative Neuroanatomy Laboratory takes an evolutionary approach to understanding brain architectures. It makes studies of brain organization in diverse groups of animals, including fishes, reptiles, birds, and mammals. The shape and arrangement of neurons are analyzed in various parts of the brain to look for similarities that may be related to similar functional capabilities. The goal is to illuminate the relationship of neuronal structure to a wide range of cognitive functions, such as the ability to understand spatial relationships to form a mental map (which most animals can do) and higher-level abilities, such as thinking forward in time and mentally categorizing sets of objects (which both birds and mammals can do).

Computational and Experimental Neuroplasticity Lab

The Computational and Experimental Neuroplasticity Laboratory is a multidisciplinary research group devoted to the study of learning and memory. Lab members search for the biophysical and biochemical mechanisms of long term memory storage. In particular, they seek to understand the cellular events underlying the requirement for temporal proximity of stimuli to be associated, and the neural circuits involved in the behavioral expression of memory.

Computational Cerebral Hemodynamics

This research focuses on the mechanisms responsible for the initiation, progression and outcome of cerebrovascular diseases such as stroke. Particular attention is paid to brain aneurysms, a major cause of hemorrhagic strokes. Investigators use state-of-the-art image-based computational techniques to model the patient-specific blood flow patterns in intracranial aneurysms. These models provide information that can be used to understand the relationship between blood flow dynamics and clinical events such as aneurysm growth and rupture. The goals of this research are to improve our understanding of the processes responsible for the evolution of cerebral aneurysms, to improve patient evaluations in order to determine who needs to be treated, and to optimize and personalize therapies.

Krasnow Investigations of Developmental Learning and Behavior (KIDLAB)

Research efforts at KIDLAB are focused on investigating the relationship between talent and disability. KIDLAB does this using behavioral paradigms and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate the cognitive neuroscience of reasoning and attention processes in adults and children. KIDLAB's goal is to contribute new insight into how the brain develops and learns throughout the lifespan under normal circumstances and in the cases of pathologies such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism, and Alzheimer's disease.

Origin of Life Laboratory

This laboratory focuses on the origin of life. Recent work has shown how the entire metabolic chart is potentially an emergent of simple autocatalytic metabolic systems such as the citric acid cycle. The goal is to elucidate deep pruning rules, analogous to the Pauli Exclusion Principle, that would inevitably lead to carbon-based life under a manifold of conditions throughout the Universe. The project has been funded by the Sir John Templeton Foundation and the National Science Foundation.

Perception & Action Neuroscience Group

The ability to see other people moving is essential for many aspects of daily life – from things as simple as avoiding collisions to detecting suspicious behavior or recognizing that someone is upset. The research efforts of the Perception & Action Neuroscience Group are focused on examining how we recognize human movement and the impact of others’ actions upon our own actions, using a combination of behavioral paradigms, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), and electroencephalography (EEG). The goal of the group’s research is to further the understanding of how we see and act with others as part of everyday life, in specialized settings such as surveillance, and in conditions in which human movement recognition may be impaired.

  1. ^ [1] The Mind, The Brain And Complex Systems, Morowitz and Singer Eds 1993
  2. ^ [2] Washington Post April 3, 1997
  3. ^ [3]
  4. ^ [4]
  5. ^ [5] What Would You Do With 4 Billion Dollars, Popular Science Jan 23, 2009
  6. ^ [6] What Makes Up My Mind, Joel Achenbach, Washington Post Sept 23, 2007
  7. ^ [7] Diadem Challenge

Coordinates: 38°49′40″N 77°18′56″W / 38.82775°N 77.31559°W / 38.82775; -77.31559