Picower Professor of Neuroscience Earl K. Miller

Earl K. Miller

Picower Professor of Neuroscience
The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory
Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Contact Info

Office: 46-6241
Phone: 617-252-1584

Administrative Assistant

Meredith Mahnke
Office: 46-6241
Phone: 617-252-1790

Neural Basis of Memory and Cognition
Interests in the Miller laboratory center around the neural mechanisms of attention, learning, and memory needed for voluntary, goal-directed behavior. Much effort is directed at the prefrontal cortex, a cortical region at the anterior end of the brain that is greatly enlarged in primates, especially humans. The prefrontal cortex has long been known to play a central role in cognition. Its damage or dysfunction disrupts the ability to ignore distractions, hold important information “in mind”, plan behavior, and control impulses. The lab explores prefrontal function by employing a variety of techniques including multiple-electrode neurophysiology, psychophysics, pharmacological manipulations, and computational techniques.

Recent work in the lab has shown that neurons in the prefrontal cortex have complex properties that are ideal for a role in cognitive control. Their activity is highly dependent on, and shaped by, task demands. They are selectively activated by relevant sensory inputs, involved in recalling stored memories, and they integrate the diverse information needed for a common behavioral goal. Perhaps most importantly, they transmit acquired knowledge. Their activity reflects learned associations between diverse stimuli, actions, and their consequences. They can even convey abstract behavioral information such as “rules.” This representation of the formal demands of tasks within the prefrontal cortex may provide the necessary foundation for the complex forms of behavior observed in primates, in whom this structure is most elaborate.

Earl K. Miller received his Ph.D. in Psychology and Neuroscience from Princeton University. After postdoctoral training at the National Institute of Mental Health, he joined the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT in 1995.

  • Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2017
  • Miller and Cohen (2001) identified as the 5th most-cited paper in Neuroscience (Yeung et al., 2017)
  • Paul and Lilah Newton Brain Science Award, 2017
  • Goldman-Rakic Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Cognitive Neuroscience, 2016
  • Distinguished Member, National Society of Collegiate Scholars, 2013
  • National Institute of Mental Health MERIT Award
  • Mathilde Solowey Award in the Neurosciences
  • Election to the International Neuropsychological Symposium
  • Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • The Picower Chair at MIT
  • The National Academy of Sciences Troland Research Award
  • The Society for Neuroscience Young Investigator Award
  • The Pew Scholar Award
  • The John Merck Scholar Award
  • The McKnight Scholar Award
Featured publications are below. For a full list visit the lab website linked above.

January 26, 2018
Lundqvist, M., Herman, P. Warden, M.R., Brincat, S.L., and Miller, E.K. (2018), Nature Communications. 9, 394
January 25, 2018
Wutz, A., Loonis, R., Roy, J.E., Donoghue, J.A., and Miller, E.K. (2018) Neuron 97: 1-11
March 17, 2016
Lundqvist, M., Rose, J., Herman, P, Brincat, S.L, Buschman, T.J., and Miller, E.K. (2016) Neuron
June 19, 2015
Siegel, M., Buschman, T.J., and Miller, E.K. (2015) Science: 1352-1355.
June 12, 2014
Antzoulatos, E.G. and Miller, E.K. (2014) . Neuron, 83:216-225. (Selected as one of Neuron’s Best of 2014-2015)

New method classifies brain cells based on electrical signals

August 22, 2019
Research findings
Making electrophysiology more informative, team shows how to distinguish four classes of cells by spike waveform

Alumnus gives MIT $4.5 million to establish the Broderick Fund for Phytocannabinoid Research

April 30, 2019
New Research
Gifts to MIT and Harvard Medical School totaling $9 million will fund independent research on cannabinoid’s influence on brain health and behavior

Deep stimulation improves cognitive control by augmenting brain rhythms

April 4, 2019
Research Findings
Finding could improve development of personalized psychiatric treatments

"What do I most like to tell people about the brain?"

March 17, 2019
Brain Awareness Week 2019
Picower researchers mark Brain Awareness Week 2019

Dozens from Picower present research at SfN

November 13, 2018
Recent Events
Researchers take part in field's largest annual exchange of ideas

A new model for how working memory gets you through the day

October 24, 2018
Research findings
Brain rhythms have crucial role in maintenance and control

Earl Miller wins George A. Miller Prize in Cognitive Neuroscience

October 15, 2018
Picower People
Miller will deliver lecture in San Francisco in March

To understand working memory, scientists must resolve this debate

August 8, 2018
Research findings
How do we hold and juggle multiple pieces of information in mind?

As brain extracts meaning from vision, study tracks progression of processing

July 10, 2018
Research Findings
Six brain regions participate in a more blended way than has been appreciated

Symposium speaks to the many powers of brain rhythms

April 9, 2018
11 experts convened at Picower April 4

Andre Bastos
Postdoctoral Fellow

Scott Brincat
Research Scientist

Jacob Donoghue
Graduate Student

Frank Guenther
Professor Boston University

Mikael Lundqvist
Postdoctoral Fellow

Meredith Mahnke
Lab manager, Research Technician

Morteza Moazami
Postdoctoral Fellow

Dimitris Pinotsis
Visiting Scientist

Jefferson Roy
Associate Lab Director, Research Scientist

Robert Vasen
Undergraduate Researcher

Jorge Yanar
Post-Baccalaureate Student

Andreas Wutz
Postdoctoral Fellow



Massachusetts Institute of Technology
43 Vassar Street, Bldg. 46-1303
Cambridge, MA 02139
(+1) 617-324-0305
(+1) 617-452-2588