Mark S Cohen about mark

Neuroimaging Training Program
profiled in Science magazine

Academic CV []


NIH Biosketch

NSF Biosketch

Dept of Psychiatry Web Site



Personal Statement:

As a curiosity-driven scientist, with an engineer’s mindset, I believe that the universe operates on orderly physical principles, knowledge of which will allow us to investigate and understand the most profound and difficult questions: The nature of our inner experience, the meaning of our existence, and the large-scale organization of society.

Immersing myself in my curiosity has generally served me. Understanding and modifying my motorcycle is as rewarding and riding it. I’m as captivated, and invested, in the physiology of perception as I am in the beauty of musical polyrhythms, and the technical skills that I’ve gained have made me into an effective problem solver; when there is something that I want to learn, from theory of diminished musical scales to designing printed circuit boards, from super-conducting quantum interference detectors to sourdough bread, from architecture to organization management, from expository writing to understanding the physical substructure of the human mind, I enter into new challenges confident that with perseverance problems can be solved, often by organizing others to work with me on these quests.

People are intensely interesting to me. I love learning about their passions, their challenges, and their stories, and I love working with others to satisfy their own curiosities. The experiences through which people come to their beliefs, even when they are wildly different from my own, often explain more than the beliefs themselves.

It's my great fortune that I’ve been able to explore multiple passions as both a professional and a committed amateur. From as far back as I can remember, I had my feet planted in multiple, disparate, disciplines in arts, music, science, technology, and philosophy, without it ever occurring to me that this was unusual or problematic in any way. Through sheer luck, I’ve managed to avoid any requirement to “choose one.” As an undergraduate student at Stanford and at MIT, I moved fluidly between majors in music, architecture, mechanical and electrical engineering, and ultimately in Human Biology. The trajectory even then was less linear than it sounds, as it was punctuated by time spent performing and recording as a musician.

Among the most important works in my career was the co-invention of functional MRI, which remains unique in offering the best possible window in the abstract barrier that separates the seemingly incommensurate worlds of brain and mind. Through my comfort with physics, math, electronics and computation, I’ve been able to make real contributions, developing, and using, tools that not only show us how our brains manage complex information and cognitive tasks, but which also can be run in reverse to allow us to infer inner, mental, activity from measured signals.

Through all of this brain investigation, I’m impressed at how efficiently our brains convert the noisy, unreliable and radically incomplete information received from our senses into a seemingly coherent mental reality of experience. Remarkably, however, the recent computational discoveries in the areas of sparsity and compressive sensing have given us a glimpse into how this might take place. Learning the mathematics of sparsity is a tough, but meetable, challenge; I believe that the payoff will be profound: we will be able to understand much better how our biases, instantiated as both evolved biological structures, and learned expectations cause us to perceive the world as we do.

Learning and understanding are joyful experiences. Becoming and educator is an exceptionally satisfying process, and my fondest hope is that in so doing I am able to transfer to other people the knowledge that participatory curiosity is among life’s finest rewards.


Elected Board Member, Society for Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Elected Board Member, International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine
Elected Board Member, Society for Magnetic Resonance
Associate Editor, Journal of Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Editorial Board; Journal of Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Medical, Scientific, & Technology Advisory Board for the Institute for Magnetic Resonance Safety, Education, and Research (IMRSER)
Plenary Speaker International Epilepsy Society
Plenary Speaker, Society for Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Chair, Education Committee, Society for Magnetic Resonance
Plenary Speaker, American College of NeuroPsychopharmacology
Plenary Speaker, American Society for Neuroradiology
Member, California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI)
UCLA Postdoctoral Mentor award
National Aeronautics and Space Administration Invention Award
Council on Undergraduate Research. Excellence in Mentoring Undergraduate Research
Education in Neuroimaging Award. Organization for Human Brain Mapping

Educational Background:
  Post Graduate
  1980-1985 The Rockefeller University
New York, NY
Neurobiology and Behavior
    1974-1980 Stanford University
Human Biology
    1974-1980 Stanford University
Human Biology
    1976-1978 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Electrical and Mechanical Engineering
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