Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

Geffen Laboratory of
Auditory Coding

Maria Neimark Geffen, Ph.D. Principal Investigator

Maria Neimark Geffen, Ph.D.

Maria Neimark Geffen, Ph.D.
Principal Investigator

Associate Professor
University of Pennsylvania


Department of Otorhinolaryngology
Department of Neuroscience

B.A. Princeton University (2001)
Molecular Biology, with concentrations in Biophysics and Visual Arts
Ph.D. Harvard University (2006)


Dr. Geffen is a leader in the field of auditory neuroscience. She is interested in the way the brain encodes information about the world and how our perception is shaped by our emotional state and experience. She combines computational and biological approaches to study the mechanisms behind dynamic auditory perception, memory and learning. 

Dr. Geffen's recent discoveries include: identifying a novel cell type that supports hearing of unexpected sounds; establishing the connection between emotional learning and sound perceptual acuity; and elucidating the neuronal code for representation of communication signals in the brain. Her scientific results are regularly published in well-recognized journals, including Nature Neuroscience, eLife and PLoS Biology. Her research accomplishments have been recognized with prestigious awards, including the Burroughs Wellcome Career Award at the Scientific Interface, the Klingenstein Foundation Award in Neurosciences, the Human Frontiers in Science Foundation Young Investigator Award and the Auditory Neurophysiology Young Investigator Spotlight Award. Her research is supported by multiple grants from the NIH as well as from private and international foundations. She serves as a permanent member on an NIH review panel, and has served as the general chair and workshop director for multiple international meetings. Dr. Geffen’s trainees have won the Brain Research Foundation Young Investigator Award, Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award from NIH and the Saul Winegrad Award for Outstanding Dissertation. 

Dr. Geffen first became interested in systems neuroscience through her undergraduate thesis under mentorship of John Hopfield at Princeton University, in which she explored the mechanics of whisking in rats. She studied texture encoding in the somatosensory system with Christopher Moore at MIT during her first two years of graduate school at Harvard.  She completed her Ph.D. in the laboratory of Markus Meister at Harvard University, where she discovered a novel retinal circuit for processing moving images. After her Ph.D., she was a fellow at the Center for Physics and Biology at Rockefeller University, where she worked first in collaboration with the Laurent laboratory on temporal processing in the olfactory system, and next under mentorship of Marcelo Magnasco, exploring the dynamics of natural sounds. 

In her free time, Maria enjoys listening to natural and unnatural sounds while walking or biking across cities, parks, beaches and mountains. She may be spotted after work making funny noises with her children on local playgrounds.