IIT People Search

John Assad

Senior Researcher - Principal Investigator
Research center

I received my PhD in Neurobiology from Harvard University in 1991. I did a postdoc at Baylor College of Medindine until 1996, when I joined the faculty of the Department of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School. The goal of my lab’s research has been to understand how the primate brain controls behavior by integrating external sensory information with internal states, such as attention or motivation. The brain has an astonishing ability to flexibly link sensation and action. The same visual object may trigger different actions depending on external context or the animal’s internal needs, preferences or state of attention. My lab uses electrophysiological, optical and behavioral techniques to study the brain computations between sensory input and motor output. We have focused on three important aspects of this processing chain: 1) how visual information is transformed into a behaviorally useful form, 2) how appropriate movements are initiated at precise times, and 3) how the value of objects or goals in the environment is assigned to guide behavior. For many of these studies, my lab has focused on the parietal cortex, a part of the brain that acts as a bridge between sensation and action. We have also examined the role of the basal ganglia in movement control, an issue that is relevant for understanding movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, and we have studied the orbitofrontal cortex in the context of how the brain represents value.

At IIT, I have been mainly involved in collaborative projects to develop new probes for measuring neural activity in vivo.

Colleagues of IIT@Harvard