Institute of Cognitive and Brain Sciences

The Institute of Cognitive and Brain Sciences supports research exploring the study of the mind and the biological basis of behavior and mental function. ICBS was founded in 1984 to promote research opportunities in cognitive science, the interdisciplinary field dedicated to understanding the nature of the mind. Institute members come from a number of departments on campus, including Psychology, Linguistics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Vision Sciences, Education, Anthropology, Philosophy, Music, and the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute. The members share a common interest in understanding the nature of the mind. The intersection of researchers from these different disciplines has led to new research paradigms and methodologies to address ancient questions. In 2000, the ICBS adopted its current name, in recognition of the emergence of cognitive neuroscience as a field for the bi-directional study of mind-brain relationships. Understanding the brain will require an appreciation of the complexity of the mental faculties of human and non-human organisms, while the development of sophisticated theories of mental function will be informed and constrained by neuroscience. To further strengthen these links, ICBS became a center within the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute in 2009.

ICBS Activities and Organizations

ICBS hosts a number of ongoing activities in support of its program in cognitive and brain sciences. A long-standing tradition has been our bi-weekly colloquium series, featuring talks by Institute members, other Berkeley faculty, and many national and international visitors to the campus. These talks are open to the public and attended by ICBS members, members of their laboratories, undergraduates, and interested members of the campus and community. The colloquium series is frequently oriented around a theme of current interest to ICBS members: recent themes have included Perception and Action, Causal Reasoning, and Consciousness.

ICBS regularly hosts Institute Fellows, extended visits by internationally acclaimed scholars. Past fellows include Vittorio Gallese of the Univ. of Parma, Lera Boroditsky of Stanford, Steve Sloman of Brown University, Barry Schwartz of Swarthmore College, and Michael Cole of UC San Diego.

The links between mind and brain science have become a focal point of ICBS activities over the past decade. The research programs of many members now fall within the field of cognitive neuroscience, the application of the methods of cognitive psychology and science to understand brain function. ICBS also provides support for the staff of the Brain Imaging Center to facilitate research programs of the Institute's members involving magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), a powerful tool for analyzing the structure and function of the human brain.

Although not formally linked to ICBS, many of our faculty participate in one of the most popular interdisciplinary majors on campus--Cognitive Science. Cognitive Science undergraduates take a broad curriculum that provides basic coursework in the subdisciplines that form cognitive science; in addition, they specialize in one of six tracks: computer science, cognitive psychology, neuroscience, computational linguistics, philosophy, and culture and cognition (forthcoming). The student-run Cognitive Science Students Association works with ICBS to sponsor events and lectures that allow Berkeley undergraduates to learn about the many research worlds that form cognitive science.

For more information, see:

ICBS homepage:
HWNI neuroscience:
Berkeley Brain Imaging Center:

Representative Research Projects of ICBS Faculty

Spatial Cognition: ICBS members study the representation of space in many forms. Topics include how the different senses are used to create a coherent three-dimensional representation of the environment, how the brain constructs multiple reference frames and how disorders of consciousness affect these reference frames, and how languages both spoken and sign, use spatial metaphors. See

Cognitive Neuroscience of Memory and Executive Control: The biological bases of human memory and cognition have been examined by using four methods: analyses of neurological patients, investigations using functional neuroimaging, experimental cognitive research, and computational modeling. An important focus is on the role of the frontal lobes in the control and coordination of higher mental functions (e.g., goal-oriented behavior). See

The Neural Theory of Language and Thought: This work features computational models, designed to understand how brain function can give rise to human concepts and language, with a strong emphasis on how language acquisition may be related to the child's sensory-motor experiences. See

Causal Inference and Learning: Issues of causal inference and learning have become an important focus of investigation within many different disciplines including psychology, philosophy, and computer science. Empirical work in developmental psychology has led to the proposal that concepts emerge from intuitive theories regarding the causal structure of the world. The computational formalism of the causal Bayes net provides a way to represent causal structure and provides tools for causal inference and learning. See

Learning Complex Motor Tasks: Interdisciplinary studies to understand how natural and artificial systems learn to solve complex motor tasks, such as running, diving, throwing, and flying. The work involves experimental studies in humans and other animals, as well as the development of robotic systems capable of carrying out complex tasks. See

The World Color Survey: A major cross-cultural endeavor to compare different linguistic groups in their expression of color terms, and examine how this linguistic knowledge may influence non-linguistic aspects of perception and cognition. See

Soft Computing: Soft computing is a coalition of methodologies which collectively provide a foundation for the conception, design and utilization of intelligent systems. The principal members of the coalition are neurocomputing, evolutionary computing, probabilistic computing, fuzzy logic and machine learning. Projects include development of a computational theories of perception and natural languages, as well as computing with words. See

Silvia Bunge (Co-Director)
Richard Ivry (Co-Director)
Mailing address

444 Li Ka Shing Center #3370
Berkeley, CA  94720