John H.R. Maunsell, PhD

Our research is aimed at understanding how neuronal signals in visual cerebral cortex generate perceptions and guide behavior. Our approach is to record from individual neurons in trained, behaving monkeys and mice while they perform visual tasks.



Much of our work is directed at understanding how paying attention to specific visual targets affects the way that they are represented in the brain, and how changes in the sensory representation caused by attention relate to changes in perception and behavior. We have shown that attention increases the strength of neuronal responses without changing their selectivity, effectively representing the attended stimulus as if it were more intense than it really is. Paired measurements of neuronal responses and behavioral performance have shown that much of the behavioral advantage conferred by attention may be explained by this change it causes in the sensory representation, rather than decision processes.



Another line of research has been exploring the more general question of how the activity of given neurons contributes to specific visual behaviors. Measurements of the trial-to-trial correlation between the strength of a neuron's responses to a weak stimulus and the animal's performance detecting that stimulus have shown that different neurons contribute to a greater or lesser degree to particular behaviors depending on which stimuli they are most sensitive to.



We also use electrical and optical microstimulation to explore how different regions in visual cortex contribute to visual perceptions. By measuring the stimulus strength needed to produce a just-detectable stimulus in different cortical areas, we have found that all regions of cerebral cortex are comparable in their ability to produce detectable percepts.

Duke University
Durham, NC
BS - Zoology

California Institute of Technology
Pasadena, CA
PhD - Biology

Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge, MA
Postdoc - Psychology

An Open Resource for Non-human Primate Optogenetics.
Tremblay S, Acker L, Afraz A, Albaugh DL, Amita H, Andrei AR, Angelucci A, Aschner A, Balan PF, Basso MA, Benvenuti G, Bohlen MO, Caiola MJ, Calcedo R, Cavanaugh J, Chen Y, Chen S, Chernov MM, Clark AM, Dai J, Debes SR, Deisseroth K, Desimone R, Dragoi V, Egger SW, Eldridge MAG, El-Nahal HG, Fabbrini F, Federer F, Fetsch CR, Fortuna MG, Friedman RM, Fujii N, Gail A, Galvan A, Ghosh S, Gieselmann MA, Gulli RA, Hikosaka O, Hosseini EA, Hu X, Hüer J, Inoue KI, Janz R, Jazayeri M, Jiang R, Ju N, Kar K, Klein C, Kohn A, Komatsu M, Maeda K, Martinez-Trujillo JC, Matsumoto M, Maunsell JHR, Mendoza-Halliday D, Monosov IE, Muers RS, Nurminen L, Ortiz-Rios M, O'Shea DJ, Palfi S, Petkov CI, Pojoga S, Rajalingham R, Ramakrishnan C, Remington ED, Revsine C, Roe AW, Sabes PN, Saunders RC, Scherberger H, Schmid MC, Schultz W, Seidemann E, Senova YS, Shadlen MN, Sheinberg DL, Siu C, Smith Y, Solomon SS, Sommer MA, Spudich JL, Stauffer WR, Takada M, Tang S, Thiele A, Treue S, Vanduffel W, Vogels R, Whitmire MP, Wichmann T, Wurtz RH, Xu H, Yazdan-Shahmorad A, Shenoy KV, DiCarlo JJ, Platt ML. An Open Resource for Non-human Primate Optogenetics. Neuron. 2020 10 12.
PMID: 33080229

The Mind of a Mouse.
Abbott LF, Bock DD, Callaway EM, Denk W, Dulac C, Fairhall AL, Fiete I, Harris KM, Helmstaedter M, Jain V, Kasthuri N, LeCun Y, Lichtman JW, Littlewood PB, Luo L, Maunsell JHR, Reid RC, Rosen BR, Rubin GM, Sejnowski TJ, Seung HS, Svoboda K, Tank DW, Tsao D, Van Essen DC. The Mind of a Mouse. Cell. 2020 Sep 17; 182(6):1372-1376.
PMID: 32946777

Mice Preferentially Use Increases in Cerebral Cortex Spiking to Detect Changes in Visual Stimuli.
Cone JJ, Bade ML, Masse NY, Page EA, Freedman DJ, Maunsell JHR. Mice Preferentially Use Increases in Cerebral Cortex Spiking to Detect Changes in Visual Stimuli. J Neurosci. 2020 Oct 07; 40(41):7902-7920.
PMID: 32917791

The Correlation of Neuronal Signals with Behavior at Different Levels of Visual Cortex and Their Relative Reliability for Behavioral Decisions.
Kang I, Maunsell JHR. The Correlation of Neuronal Signals with Behavior at Different Levels of Visual Cortex and Their Relative Reliability for Behavioral Decisions. J Neurosci. 2020 05 06; 40(19):3751-3767.
PMID: 32273483

Attention can be subdivided into neurobiological components corresponding to distinct behavioral effects.
Luo TZ, Maunsell JHR. Attention can be subdivided into neurobiological components corresponding to distinct behavioral effects. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2019 Dec 23.
PMID: 31871179

Neuronal Effects of Spatial and Feature Attention Differ Due to Normalization.
Ni AM, Maunsell JHR. Neuronal Effects of Spatial and Feature Attention Differ Due to Normalization. J Neurosci. 2019 07 10; 39(28):5493-5505.
PMID: 31068439

Different Inhibitory Interneuron Cell Classes Make Distinct Contributions to Visual Contrast Perception.
Cone JJ, Scantlen MD, Histed MH, Maunsell JHR. Different Inhibitory Interneuron Cell Classes Make Distinct Contributions to Visual Contrast Perception. eNeuro. 2019 Jan-Feb; 6(1).
PMID: 30868104

Electrical Microstimulation of Visual Cerebral Cortex Elevates Psychophysical Detection Thresholds.
Cone JJ, Ni AM, Ghose K, Maunsell JHR. Electrical Microstimulation of Visual Cerebral Cortex Elevates Psychophysical Detection Thresholds. eNeuro. 2018 Sep-Oct; 5(5).
PMID: 30406199

Attentional Changes in Either Criterion or Sensitivity Are Associated with Robust Modulations in Lateral Prefrontal Cortex.
Luo TZ, Maunsell JHR. Attentional Changes in Either Criterion or Sensitivity Are Associated with Robust Modulations in Lateral Prefrontal Cortex. Neuron. 2018 03 21; 97(6):1382-1393.e7.
PMID: 29503191

Spatially tuned normalization explains attention modulation variance within neurons.
Ni AM, Maunsell JHR. Spatially tuned normalization explains attention modulation variance within neurons. J Neurophysiol. 2017 09 01; 118(3):1903-1913.
PMID: 28701536

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Member
Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives
2018

Elected Fellow
American Academdy of Arts and Science
2014

Astor Visiting Lecturer
Oxford University
2008

Elected Fellow
American Academy for the Advancement of Science
2002

Development Award
McKnight Foundation
1991 - 1993

Young Investigator Award
Office of Naval Research
1986 - 1989

Outstanding PhD Thesis Award
Intra-Science Research Foundation
1982