LIMBS Lab receives NSF grant

CowanFortuneLIMBS Lab director Noah Cowan and his colleague, neuroscientist Eric Fortune, were awarded a $805,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, entitled “Neural Mechanisms of Active Sensing”. 

Animals, including humans, routinely use movement to sense the world around them. For example, to sense the texture of an object, a person might move her hand over the surface, whereas to measure the object’s weight, she might hold it in her palm and move it up and down. This use of different movements to sense features of the environment is called Active Sensing. Although active sensing is commonplace in human behavior, how the brain generates and controls these movements is poorly understood. The goal of this project is to reveal and describe (in mathematical equations) the brain’s strategies for active sensing. This will be achieved by studying a specialized animal species, the weakly electric glass knifefish. This animal was chosen because it has a suite of properties that make it ideally suited for the experimental approach. The expected findings will have broad implications for active sensing in other animals (including humans) because active sensing behaviors are similar across species. This work will have broad societal impacts, including the possible transformation of robotic control systems and enhanced understanding of the brain that may ultimately improve our understanding of neurological disorders. Further this work includes multidisciplinary training of promising students in critical STEM fields.

Noah Cowan and James Knierim receive two grants

CowanKnierimHow do you keep track of where you are as you walk through a known environment, such as your house or a shopping mall?  To study this question, Mechanical Engineering professor Noah Cowan and Neuroscience professor James Knierim were selected to receive two awards that aim to use engineering approaches to shed new light on the brain’s “inner GPS”.

  • 2015 Johns Hopkins Discovery Award, entitled “Engineering Approaches to Studying Spatial Representations in the Brain”. PI: Noah J. Cowan. $100,000.
  • A National Institutes of Health R21, entitled “A Control Theoretic Approach to Addressing Hippocampal Function“, PI: Noah J. Cowan. $202,500.

Alican Demir defends his PhD thesis


On Thursday December 11 Alican Demir presented his PhD dissertation research to a packed seminar room at Johns Hopkins. Alican joined the lab as a Freshman in 2013, performed MSE thesis research in the lab, worked as a research specialist for a few years, and then completed his PhD, so his contributions have been monumental in shaping the LIMBS laboratory over the years. Congratulations Alican!

Convocation Awards

LIMBS Lab members past and present were extremely well represented at the 2014 Convocation Awards!

  • Edward “Ned” Samson won the James Bell award for outstanding research and scholarly achievement in Mechanical Engineering.
  • Samuel Frishman and Alexander Spinos were co-winners of the Robert George Gerstmyer awards, recognizing outstanding undergraduate achievement in Mechanical Engineering.
  • Dongsuk Shin  won the Charles A. Miller award, which recognizes outstanding academic achievement by an undergraduate in Mechanical Engineering.
  • Gowtham Garimella – graduate winners of the Creel Family Teaching Assistant award, recognizing the best teaching assistants in Mechanical Engineering.

Juggling Study Highlighted in the News

Mert Ankarali’s paper was featured on the cover of the Journal of Neurophysiology:

M. Mert Ankaralı, H. Tutkun Şen, Avik De, Allison M. Okamura, and Noah J. Cowan. “Haptic feedback enhances rhythmic motor control by reducing variability, not improving convergence rate”. J Neurophysiol, 111(6):1286-1299, 2014. [pdf] [Download cover illustration]

It was also picked up in the news:


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