Welcome to the Gold Lab
Many aspects of higher brain function rely on two closely related capacities, inference and learning. Inference is the process of drawing conclusions from uncertain data, like forming a percept from noisy sensory inputs or predicting the most rewarding choice from the recent history of outcomes. Learning uses experience to help ensure that these inference processes make effective use of the available data and context to achieve particular goals, like maximizing rewards and minimizing costs. The primary goal of my research is to understand how this interplay between inference and learning is implemented in the brain, thereby providing a window onto mechanisms of cognition and adaptive behavior.
Our studies involve four basic approaches: 1) Quantitative measures of behavior (“psychophysics”) to identify how inference and/or learning operate under particular, well-controlled conditions; 2) Electrophysiological measures of brain activity, typically combined with psychophysics, to test directly hypotheses about how neural activity in a particular brain region or regions contribute to behavior; 3) Non-invasive measures of physiological variables like pupil diameter that can lend insights into how changes in brain state related to ongoing cognitive processing; and 4) Computational theory and modeling to identify the underlying principles and specific computations used by the brain to solve particular tasks.
The purpose of this research is to establish a basic understanding of the neural mechanisms responsible for decision-making, adaptive behavior, and other aspects of higher brain function and in the longer term to translate this understanding into new approaches to understand, diagnose, and treat disorders of learning and cognition.
I am also Chair of the Neuroscience Graduate Group, which is part of Penn's Biomedical Graduate Studies program; Co-Director of Penn's Computational Neuroscience Initiative; a Senior Editor at eLife, an open-access journal with an ambitious peer-review process and strong commitment to improving research culture; and a proud dad of three wonderful children.
Joshua I Gold
Updated June 24, 2020