Kanwisher Lab

We study the functional organization of the human brain as a window into the architecture of the mind. Over the last 20 years our lab has played a central role in the identification of several dozen regions of the cortex in humans that are engaged in particular components of perception and cognition. Many of these regions are very specifically engaged in a single mental function such as perceiving faces, places, bodies, or words, or understanding the meanings of sentences or the mental states of others. Other regions combine unexpected combinations of functions that may ultimately provide the strongest constraints on the computations conducted in those regions. Yet other regions are almost indiscriminately engaged in nearly any difficult task at all. Each of these regions is present in approximately the same location in virtually every normal person. Collectively, these regions can be thought of as the beginnings of a neural portrait of the human mind. This new neural portrait lays bare a vast landscape of new questions that we are tackling now. What other mental functions get their own private patch of real estate in the human brain? What information is representation in each region, and what computations does it conduct? What is the causal role of each region in perception and cognition? What other brain regions is each functionally distinctive region structurally connected to, and what functional interactions between regions do those connections afford? How does all this systematic neural structure arise in development? How did it arise over evolution? Why do we have specialized brain regions in the first place? For more information on these topics, you can browse the short videos for laypeople at NancysBrainTalks, or our recent scientific publications.