John Kubie

About John Kubie

I work at Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, NY, where my time is divided between research, teaching and avoiding committees. In grad school I studied olfaction in snakes and salamanders, but I’ve been studying the rat hippocampus and its relations to navigation and memory since the 1980s. Bob Muller, Jim Ranck and I were among the first to characterize hippocampal place cells recorded in behaving rats.

Outside of science (and perhaps inside) I’m a boring guy. Interests include people, movies, philosophy, travel, computers and family. I’ve been blogging for less than a year, but it has become a strong interest and hobby. The other blog is

Place Cells, Remapping and Memory

Bob Muller, close friend and collaborator, died two weeks ago. I met Bob in the early 1980s. I was a post-doc, learning to record from single neurons in Jim Ranck’s lab at Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn. Bob was a young faculty member who worked down the hall. Although Bob was doing esoteric work, studying the physics of single channels in membranes, his early graduate work had been in brain-behavior relations and he wanted to return to the study of behavior. Continue reading

Posted in by John Kubie, Learning and Memory, Neural Network Function
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Submitted for your Consideration: The Neuroscience of Moby Dick

Carl Zimmer has written a brief and engaging essay on The Science of Moby Dick. Zimmer considers Melville a 19th century naturalist. It’s fascinating to read literature from this perspective. In the 19th century there was not a great divide between science and literature; each enriched the other.

Taking cues from Carl, let’s examine the Neuroscience from the great whaling novel, written in 1851, about 50 years age before the dawn of modern Neuroscience. From simple observations of sperm whale anatomy Melville ponders the visual and mental process in men and whales.  A long quote from chapter 74, the Sperm Whale’s Head, reveals Melville’s insights and mode of thinking: Continue reading

Posted in Awareness and Attention, by John Kubie, Senses and Perception
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Memento and Personal Identity

I’ve been reflecting on issues of Personal Identity; last month I wrote a blog post on this. On Saturday evening I rented Memento (2000) and watched for the second and third times. This remarkable film features adventure, mystery, human drama, and fascinating movie technique. Over-riding all of these is the portrayal of memory and the mind. Although I’ve been studying memory for 30 years, Memento gave fresh perspectives. If the role of art is to present fresh insights by sharing the thoughts of others, Momento is true and impressive art.

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Posted in by John Kubie, Learning and Memory
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Voluntary control over pupil size

There is a fascinating report in the levitra dosage and side effects Journal “Current Biology” that patient’s with “locked in syndrome” online cialis can communicate by pharmacy week controlling the size of their pupils. This raises a number of questions:

  • What is “locked in syndrome”? What can these patients do and not do?
  • What parts of the brain are necessary for consciousness and how are they affected by the locked in syndrome.
  • What are the mechanisms for brain control over the muscles that control pupil size and other muscles?
  • Is there conscious control online levitra over the Autonomic Nervous System?
  • Is there a relation to “biofeedback”? What is biofeedback?
  • What pathway from the cerebral hemispheres to the ANS could be responsible for conscious control of pupillary dilation?




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Human Grid Cells

Grid Cells in rat entorhinal cortex were discovered in the Moser lab in Trondheim, Norway. These cells were first described in a paper in Nature 20051; For the past  8 years these neurons have been objects of intense study. As the New York Times reports, a paper published yesterday in Nature Neuroscience2 indicates rats aren’t the only animals with grid cells; people have them, too. What are grid cells and what is the significance of recording them in humans?

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Posted in Animal Research, by John Kubie, Learning and Memory, Neural Network Function
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Depth Perception and the Hollow Face Illusion

The Hollow Face Illusion is spooky. The photo is of a flat sheet of plastic with a facial mask pushed in one side. In this case it’s the face of Albert Einstein*. It’s not surprising that when illuminated, the shadows give a perception of Einstein’s face. The spooky part is that the photo was taken with the face pointing away from the camera — It’s as if we are looking at the face from inside the head. But for most of us, it looks as if the face is pointing towards you; that is, the nose is closer to the camera than the rest of the face. Actually, the nose is is furthest away. Continue reading

Posted in by John Kubie, Senses and Perception
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