A portrait of Emery Brown

Emery N. Brown

Edward Hood Taplin Professor of Medical Engineering and Computational Neuroscience
Investigator in The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory
Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences
Institute for Medical Engineering & Science
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Contact Info

Administrative Assistant

Rhonda Valenti
Phone: 617-840-7287

Neural Signal Processing Algorithms 

Recent technological and experimental advances in the capabilities to record signals from neural systems have led to an unprecedented increase in the types and volume of data collected in neuroscience experiments and hence, in the need for appropriate techniques to analyze them. Therefore, using combinations of likelihood, Bayesian, state-space, time-series and point process approaches, a primary focus of the research in my laboratory is the development of statistical methods and signal-processing algorithms for neuroscience data analysis. We have used our methods to:

  • characterize how hippocampal neurons represent spatial information in their ensemble firing patterns
  • analyze formation of spatial receptive fields in the hippocampus during learning of novel environments
  • relate changes in hippocampal neural activity to changes in performance during procedural learning
  • improve signal extraction from fMR imaging time-series
  • characterize the spiking properties of neurons in primary motor cortex
  • localize dynamically sources of neural activity in the brain from EEG and MEG recordings made during cognitive, motor and somatosensory tasks
  • measure the period of the circadian pacemaker (human biological clock) and its sensitivity to light
  • characterize the dynamics of human heart beats in physiological and pathological states
  • de-noise two photon in vivo imaging data

Understanding General Anesthesia

General anesthesia is a neurophysiological state in which a patient is rendered unconscious, insensitive to pain, amnestic, and immobile, while being maintained physiologically stable. General anesthesia has been administered in the U.S. for more than 160 years and currently, more than 100,000 people receive anesthesia daily in this country for surgery alone. Still, the mechanism by which an anesthetic drug induces general anesthesia remains a medical mystery. My laboratory is using a systems neuroscience approach to study how the state of general anesthesia is induced and maintained. To do so, we are using fMRI, EEG, neurophysiological recordings, microdialysis methods and mathematical modeling in interdisciplinary collaborations with investigators in BCS, the MIT/Harvard Division of Health Science and Technology, Massachusetts General Hospital and Boston University. The long-term goal of this research is to establish a neurophysiological definition of anesthesia, safer, site-specific anesthetic drugs and to develop better neurophysiologically-based methods for measuring depth of anesthesia.

Dr. Brown served on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) BRAIN Initiative Working Group, and is currently a member of the NIH Council of Councils, the National Science Foundation Mathematics and Physical Sciences Advisory Committee, the Board of Directors of the Burroughs-Wellcome Fund, the Board of Trustees of the International Anesthesia Research Society and the Scientific Advisory Committee of CURE Epilepsy. Dr. Brown is the recipient of an NIH Director’s Pioneer Award, an NIH Director’s Transformative Research Award and the 2011 Jerome Sacks Award for Outstanding Cross Disciplinary Research from the National Institute of Statistical Science. He is a Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, the American Statistical Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the IEEE and the American Academy of Arts Sciences. Dr. Brown is a member of the Institute of Medicine, the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering.

Emery N. Brown is the Edward Hood Professor of Medical Engineering and Computational Neuroscience at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory; the Warren M. Zapol Professor of Anaesthesia at Harvard Medical School; and a practicing anesthesiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Brown received his B.A. (magna cum laude) in Applied Mathematics from Harvard College, his M.A. and his Ph.D. in statistics from Harvard University and his M.D. (magna cum laude) from Harvard Medical School.

Dr. Brown is an anesthesiologist-statistician whose experimental research has made important contributions towards understanding the neuroscience of how anesthetics act in the brain to create the states of general anesthesia. In his statistics research he has developed signal processing algorithms to solve important data analysis challenges in neuroscience. His research has been featured on National Public Radio, in Scientific American, Technology Review, the New York Times and in TEDMED 2014.

  • 2022 Gruber Prize in Neuroscience
  • 2022 Pierre Galletti Award, AIMBE
  • 2020 Swartz Prize for Theoretical and Computational Neuroscience
  • 2019 Board of Trustees, Guggenheim Foundation
  • 2019 Doctor of Science Honoris Causa, University of Southern California
  • 2018 Dickson Prize in Science
  • 2018 Member, Florida Inventors Hall of Fame
  • 2017 Medaillon Lecture, Institute of Mathematical Statistics
  • 2017 Severinghaus Lecture on Translational Science, American Society of Anesthesiologists
  • 2016 Fellow, Institute of Mathematical Statistics
  • 2015 Fellow, National Academy of Inventors
  • 2015 American Society of Anesthesiologists Award for Excellence in Research
  • 2015 Member, National Academy of Engineering
  • 2015 Guggenheim Fellow in Applied Mathematics
  • 2014 Member, National Academy of Sciences
  • 2012 NIH Director’s Transformative Research Award
  • 2012 Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences
  • 2011 National Institute of Statistical Science, Jerome Sacks Award
  • 2008 Fellow, IEEE
  • 2007 Member, National Academy of Medicine
  • 2007 NIH Director’s Pioneer Award
  • 2007 Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • 2006 Fellow, American Statistical Association
  • 2006 Fellow, American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering
  • 2002 Member, Association of University Anesthesiologists
Featured publications are below. For a full list visit the lab website linked above.

January 15, 2020
Agrawal, U., Brown, E.N., Lewis, L.D. (2020). Neuroimage 205, 116231.
April 4, 2019
Anthony J. Martorell, Abigail L. Paulson, Ho-Jun Suk, Fatema Abdurrob, Gabrielle T. Drummond, Webster Guan, Jennie Z. Young, David Nam-Woo Kim, Oleg Kritskiy, Scarlett J .Barker, Vamsi Mangena, Stephanie M. Prince, Emery N. Brown, Kwanghun Chung, Edward S. Boyden, Annabelle C. Singer, Li-Huei Tsai. Cell, 4 April 2019; Volume 177, Issue 2, P256-271.e22

Study models how ketamine’s molecular action leads to its effects on the brain

May 20, 2024
Research Findings
New research addresses a gap in understanding how ketamine’s impact on individual neurons leads to pervasive and profound changes in brain network function.

Emery N. Brown elected member of American Philosophical Society

November 28, 2023
Picower People
Brown elected to 2023 class of new members of the oldest learned society in the United States, co-founded by Benjamin Franklin.

Anesthesia blocks sensation by cutting off communication within the cortex

November 8, 2023
Research Findings
Under propofol general anesthesia, sensory input still reaches the brain, but signals do not spread. Results suggest consciousness requires cortical regions to all be “on the same page.”

Anesthesia technology precisely controls unconsciousness in animal tests

October 31, 2023
Research Findings
An advanced closed-loop anesthesia delivery system that monitors brain state to tailor propofol dose and achieve exactly the desired level of unconsciousness could reduce post-op side effects

A multifunctional tool for cognitive neuroscience

October 20, 2023
Research Findings
A flexible new tool both monitors and manipulates neural activity in the brains of large animals.

The Sleeping Brain

September 14, 2023
Neural activity during sleep has a signature structure that the brain uses to make profound improvements in our thinking and wellness

Summer research opportunity can be a springboard to advanced studies

August 3, 2023
Picower People
The paths three graduate students forged to the same Picower Institute lab illustrate the value of participating in the MIT Summer Research Program in Biology and Neuroscience.

Study finds tracking brain waves could reduce post-op complications

July 17, 2023
Research Findings
Distinctive EEG patterns indicate when a patient’s state of unconsciousness under general anesthesia is more profound than necessary.

Studying consciousness without affecting it

April 6, 2023
Research Findings
A new study tests an alternative to external stimulation for measuring when subjects lose and regain responsiveness during sedation and anesthesia.

Analyzing brain waves demystifies general anesthesia

November 14, 2022
Recent Events
At Neuroscience 2022, Emery N. Brown relayed how statistical analysis of brain rhythms in patients and animals under anesthetics has revealed important information about how the drugs work.

Administrative Assistant

 Projects and Administrative Coordinator

Rhonda Valenti

Massachusetts General Hospital



Riccardo Barbieri, Ph.D.

Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Politecnico, Milan

Patrick L. Purdon, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Anaesthesia, MGH/HMS, Associate Bioengineer of Anaesthesia, MGH/HMS

Ken Solt, M.D.

Associate Professor of Anaesthesia, MGH/HMS

Christa J. Van Dort, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Department of Anesthesia, MGH/HMS

Wasim Q. Malik, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Department of Anesthesia, MGH/HMS. Affiliated with the Division of Engineering, Brown University

Michael Prerau, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Department of Anesthesia, MGH/HMS.

Michael Brandon Westover, M.D., Ph.D.,

Assistant Professor of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital

Brian L. Edlow, M.D., Ph.D.

Associate Director, Neurotechnology Trials Unit (NTTU), Director, Critical Care Research Neuroimaging

Jason Stockman, Ph.D.

Instructor in Radiology, Harvard Medical School

Research Staff, Massachusetts General Hospital

Lei Gao, M.D.

Instructor, DACCPM, Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women's Hospital


  Anesthesia Residents

Johanna Lee, M.D.

Resident in Anesthesia, Department of Anesthesia, MGH/HMS

Elisa Walsh, M.D.

Resident in Anesthesia, Department of Anesthesia, MGH/HMS


 Medical Resident

Sam Snider, M.D.

Neurology Residency, Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women's Hospital


  Clinical Research Program Manager

Kara J. Pavone, R.N.



 Clinical Research Coordinators

Lauren Hobbs, M.S.

Department of Anesthesia, MGH/HMS

Nickolas Trzcinko

Department of Anesthesia, MGH/HMS

Christopher Gill

Department of Anesthesia, MGH/HMS


  Post-Doctoral Fellows

Patrick Stokes, Ph.D

Postdoctoral Fellow, DACCPM, MGH

Emily Stephen, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Associate, Institute for Medical Engineering and Science, MIT

Pegah Kahaliardabili, M.D.

Postdoctoral Associate, Dept of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, MIT

Sourish Chakravarty, Ph.D.


Postdoctoral Associate, Dept of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, MIT

Leon Chlon, Ph.D.


Postdoctoral Fellow, DACCPM, MGH


  Graduates (* Indicates a student for whom I am the primary dissertation or thesis advisor.)

Gladia Hotan*

Ph.D. Student, Dept of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, MIT

Tuan Le Mau*

Ph.D. Student, Dept of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, MIT

Jingzhi An*

M.D., Ph.D. Student, Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology

Andrew Song*

Ph.D. Student, Dept of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, MIT

Andrew Mullen

Masters Student, EECS MIT


David Theurel

Ph.D. Student, Dept of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, MIT


  Visiting Students

Hugo Soulat

Double Masters Student, Department of Biophysics-Bioengineering, EPFL (Ecole Polytechinque Federale de Lausanne)

Taylor Baum

Penn State University, Class of 2019

Undergraduate Researcher: Neuroscience Statistics Research Lab, MIT


  Senior Clinical Engineer

Chris Colvin, M.S.



  Research Technicians

Morgan Seigman

Research Technician, The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, MIT

Ksenia Vlasov

Research Technician, The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, MIT

Ksenia Nikolaeva

Research Technician, The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, MIT

Jenny (JunZhu) Pei

Research Technician, The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, MIT

Devika Kishnan

Research Technician, The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, MIT



Isabella Dalla Betta


UROP, The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, MIT