The workings of the human mind is an intrinsically interesting and challenging topic for human inquiry. How do our emotional states affect decision making? How do we perceive and estimate time? How do we visualize mental images? How can we "inherit" a mental disease? How does learning alter perception? Until recently, mental processes have been studied primarily through analysis of behavior; this is the traditional domain of "cognitive science." Few would doubt, however, that the brain is the organ of cognition, but neuroscience, the "wet" science of the brain, has had few tools available to probe the activities of the brain that form our mental life. A seemingly impermeable, though clearly artificial barrier has separated the human mind and brain; this barrier, however, is now beginning to fall.
Using highly sophisticated instrumentation, scientists are now able to observe the activity in the human brain with high sensitivity and with high spatial and temporal resolution. In the almost 20 years since its invention, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has allowed cognitive scientists to relate the engagement of specific brain regions to the mental processes of human subjects. It forms a "crack in the armor" that separates mind and brain. It has moved the domains of cognitive science towards physiology and of neuroscience towards the study of cognition. The merged discipline, cognitive neuroscience, will be among the most significant of human research activities for years to come.
UCLA is among the world-leading institutions in cognitive neuroscience. The field is fundamentally interdisciplinary, demanding sophistication in cognitive science and neurobiology, and thereby necessitates an intimate interaction among researchers whose traditional backgrounds are in both the psychological and biological sciences. The methods required for interrogation of the human brain in vivo are at the cutting edge of technology and require a coordinated development of resources and infrastructure based on state-of-the-art physics, engineering, and computation. Coupling an extraordinary faculty of researchers in cognition with an internationally acknowledged program in neuroimaging, UCLA workers have made groundbreaking discoveries in the cognition, perception, psychiatric disorders, surgical treatment of the brain, memory, language, and emotion, to name but a few. This has been possible because of a strong spirit of collaboration that exists between the cognitive neuroscience investigators and the physicists who are able to push the technologies to meet the research needs.