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Principal Investigator

Photo of Arash Afraz, MD, PhD, Chief of Unit on Neurons, Circuits and Behavior (UNCB)

Arash Afraz, M.D., Ph.D.


Dr. Afraz received his MD from Tehran University of Medical Sciences in 2003. In 2005 he joined the Vision Science Laboratory at Harvard and studied spatial constraints of face recognition under the mentorship of Dr. Patrick Cavanagh. Dr. Afraz received his PhD in Psychology from Harvard University in 2009. Right after, he joined Dr. James DiCarlo's group at MIT as a postdoctoral fellow to study the neural underpinnings of face and object recognition. Dr. Afraz started at NIMH as a principal investigator in 2017 to lead the unit on Neurons, Circuits and Behavior (Afraz group).

Research Interests

Dr. Afraz claims to be interested in everything related to the brain function. Since that covers almost everything in the realm of human experience thus hard to define, following is the general sketch of his group's practical research focus. Dr. Afraz's group, Unit on Neurons, Circuits and Behavior, studies the neural mechanisms of visual object recognition. The research team is particularly interested in establishing causal links between the neural activity in the ventral stream of visual processing in the brain and object recognition behavior. The group combines visual psychophysics with conventional methods of single unit recording as well as microstimulation, drug microinjection and optogenetics to bridge the gap between the neural activity and visual perception.

Selected Publications

Navigating the Neural Space in Search of the Neural Code. Jazayeri M, Afraz A. Neuron. Mar 8;93(5):1003-1014. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2017.02.019 PMID: 28279349.

Optogenetic and pharmacological suppression of spatial clusters of face neurons reveal their causal role in face gender discrimination. Afraz A, Boyden ES, DiCarlo JJ. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015 May 26;112(21):6730-5. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1423328112. Epub 2015 May 7 PMID: 25953336.

Neural Mechanisms Underlying Visual Object Recognition. Afraz A, Yamins DL, DiCarlo JJ. Cold Spring Harb Symp Quant Biol. 2014;79:99-107. doi: 10.1101/sqb.2014.79.024729 PMID: 26092883.

Spatial heterogeneity in the perception of face and form attributes. Afraz A, Pashkam MV, Cavanagh P. Curr Biol. 2010 Dec 7;20(23):2112-6. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2010.11.017. Epub 2010 Nov 25 PMID: 21109440.

Microstimulation of inferotemporal cortex influences face categorization. Afraz SR, Kiani R, Esteky H. Nature. 2006 Aug 10;442(7103):692-5. Epub 2006 Jul 26. Erratum in: Nature. 2006 Oct 5;443(7111):598 PMID: 16878143.

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