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)

Earl Miller receives Goldman-Rakic Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Cognitive Neuroscience

November 1, 2016
Neuroscientist recognized for his role in modeling brain circuitry as it gives rise to cognition.

Eleven from MIT elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences for 2017

April 12, 2017
Prestigious honor society announces 228 new members this year.

Brain waves reflect different types of learning

October 11, 2017
Research Findings
For the first time, researchers have identified neural signatures of explicit and implicit learning.

Rhythmic interactions between cortical layers control what we hold in mind

January 15, 2018
Research findings
A new study by MIT neuroscientists suggests a model for how we gain volitional control of working memory

Distinct brain rhythms, regions help us reason about categories

January 25, 2018
Research Findings
Gamma rhythms sort similar-looking objects; beta kicks in when connection is more abstract

New study reveals how brain waves control working memory

January 26, 2018
Research findings
Brain rhythms act as a gate for information entering and leaving the mind.

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