• 2022-present: Principal Scientist, Allen Institute for Neural Dynamics

  • 2020-2022: Associate Professor, Department of Neuroscience, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

  • 2014-2020: Assistant Professor, Department of Neuroscience, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine


  • Helen Hay Whitney Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard University

  • Ph.D., Neuroscience, Vanderbilt University

  • B.A., Mathematics, B.S., Neuroscience, Brandeis University


We seek to understand how the nervous system learns and makes decisions in dynamic environments. We are currently studying how neurons that release monoamines (serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine) are involved in decision making. These neurons make up less than one-thousandth of one percent of the neurons in our brain, yet they broadcast their signals to most of the brain. Many disorders, including depression, schizophrenia, drug addiction, and Parkinson's disease, appear to involve dysfunction of monoaminergic signaling. Using cell-type-specific neurophysiology, theory, computation, and well-controlled behavioral tasks in mice, we aim to understand the functions of monoaminergic neurons and their targets in cortex and basal ganglia. We hope these basic discoveries will lead to an understanding of the biology of the nervous system and better treatments for its disorders.



  • Hong SZ, Mesik L, Grossman CD, Cohen JY, Lee B, Lee H-K, Hell JW, Kirkwood A. Norepinephrine potentiates and serotonin depresses visual cortical responses by transforming eligibility traces. Nature Communications 13: 3202, 2022.

  • Grossman CD, Bari BA, Cohen JY. Serotonin neurons modulate learning rate through uncertainty. Current Biology 32: 586-599.e7, 2022.

  • Bari BA, Moerke MJ, Jedema HP, Effinger DP, Cohen JY, Bradberry CW. Reinforcement learning modeling reveals a reward-history-dependent strategy underlying reversal learning in squirrel monkeys. Behavioral Neuroscience 136: 46-60, 2022.

  • Lucantonio F, Su Z, Chang AJ, Bari BA, Cohen JY. Punishment history biases corticothalamic responses to motivationally-significant cues. eLife 10: e57634, 2021.

  • Trepka E, Spitmaan M, Bari BA, Costa VD, Cohen JY, Soltani A. Novel entropy-based metrics for predicting choice behavior based on local response to reward. Nature Communications 12: 1-16, 2021.

  • Kim EY, Bari BA, Cohen JY. Subthreshold basis for reward-predictive persistent activity in mouse prefrontal cortex. Cell Reports 35: 109082, 2021.

  • Yang H, Bari BA, Cohen JY, O'Connor DH. Locus coeruleus spiking differently correlates with S1 cortex activity and pupil diameter in a tactile detection task. eLife 10: e64327, 2021.

  • Ottenheimer DJ, Bari BA, Sutlief E, Fraser KM, Kim TH, Richard JM, Cohen JY, Janak PH. A quantitative reward prediction error signal in the ventral pallidum. Nature Neuroscience 23: 1267-1276, 2020.

  • Bari BA, Grossman CD, Lubin EL, Rajagopalan AE, Cressy JI, Cohen JY. Stable representations of decision variables for flexible behavior. Neuron 103: 9220933.e7, 2019.

  • Tian J, Huang R, Cohen JY, Osakada F, Kobak D, Machens CK, Callaway EM, Uchida N, Watabe-Uchida M. Distributed and mixed information in monosynaptic inputs to dopamine neurons. Neuron 91: 1374-1389, 2016.

  • Cohen JY, Amoroso MW, Uchida N. Serotonergic neurons signal reward and punishment on multiple timescales. eLife 4: e06346, 2015.

  • Ogawa SK, Cohen JY, Hwang D, Uchida N, Watabe-Uchida M. Organization of monosynaptic inputs to the serotonin and dopamine neuromodulatory systems. Cell Reports 8: 1105-1118, 2014.

  • Cohen JY, Haesler S, Vong L, Lowell BB, Uchida N. Neuron-type-specific signals for reward and punishment in the ventral tegmental area. Nature 482: 85-88, 2012.

  • Purcell BA, Heitz RP, Cohen JY, Schall JD. Response variability of frontal eye field neurons modulates with sensory input and saccade preparation but not visual search salience. Journal of Neurophysiology 108: 2737-2750, 2012.

  • Purcell BA, Heitz RP, Cohen JY, Schall JD, Logan GD, Palmeri TJ. Neurally constrained modeling of perceptual decision making. Psychological Review 117: 1113-1143, 2010.

  • Heitz RP, Cohen JY, Woodman GF, Schall JD. Neural correlates of correct and errant attentional selection revealed through N2pc and frontal eye field activity. Journal of Neurophysiology 104: 2433-2441, 2010.

  • Cohen JY, Crowder EA, Heitz RP, Subraveti CR, Thompson KG, Woodman GF, Schall JD. Cooperation and competition among frontal eye field neurons during visual target selection. Journal of Neuroscience 30: 3227-3238, 2010.

  • Cohen JY, Heitz RP, Schall JD, Woodman GF. On the origin of event-related potentials indexing covert attentional selection during visual search. Journal of Neurophysiology 102: 2375-2386, 2009.

  • Cohen JY, Heitz RP, Woodman GF, Schall JD. Neural basis of the set-size effect in the frontal eye field: timing of attention during visual search. Journal of Neurophysiology 101: 1699-1704, 2009.

  • Ciarleglio CM, Gamble KL, Axley JC, Strauss BR, Cohen JY, Colwell CS, McMahon DG. Population encoding by circadian clock neurons organizes circadian behavior. Journal of Neuroscience 29: 1670-1676, 2009.

  • Cohen JY, Pouget P, Heitz RP, Woodman GF, Schall JD. Biophysical support for functionally distinct cell types in the frontal eye field. Journal of Neurophysiology 101: 912-916, 2009.

  • Cohen JY, Pouget P, Woodman GF, Subraveti CR, Schall JD, Rossi AF. Difficulty of visual search modulates neuronal interactions and response variability in the frontal eye field. Journal of Neurophysiology 98: 2580-2587, 2007.

Reviews, commentaries, and books

  • Grossman CD, Cohen JY. Neuromodulation and neurophysiology on the timescale of learning and decision-making. Annual Review of Neuroscience 45, 2022.

  • Bari BA, Cohen JY. Dynamic decision making and value computations in medial frontal cortex. International Review of Neurobiology 158: 83, 2021.

  • Cohen JY, Grossman CD. Dorsal raphe serotonergic neurons regulate behavior on multiple timescales. Handbook of the Behavioral Neurobiology of Serotonin (Müller CP, Cunningham KA, eds) Academic Press, 521-529, 2020.

  • Balasubramani PP, Chakravarthy VS, Wong-Lin KF, Wang D-H, Cohen JY, Nakamura K, Moustafa AA. Neural circuit models of the serotonergic system. Computational Models of Brain and Behavior (Moustafa AA, ed) Wiley and Sons, 389-400, 2018.

  • Wong-Lin KF, Wang DH, Moustafa AA, Cohen JY, Nakamura K. Toward a multiscale modeling framework for understanding serotonergic function. Journal of Psychopharmacology 31, 1121-1136, 2017.

  • Uchida N, Cohen JY. Serotonin: slow motion. eLife 6: e24792, 2017.

  • Cohen JY. Dopamine and serotonin signals for reward across time scales. Science 350: 47-48, 2015.

  • Schall JD, Cohen JY. The neural basis of saccade target selection. Oxford Handbook of Eye Movements, (S.P. Liversedge, I.D. Gilchrist, S. Everling, eds) Oxford University Press 357-381, 2011.

  • Wang AY, Cohen JY. EMBO conference series on the assembly and function of neuronal circuits. Neural Systems & Circuits 1: 15, 2011.

  • Cohen JY, Heitz RP, Woodman GF, Schall JD. Reply to Balan and Gottlieb: Comment of Cohen et al.: Neural basis of the set-size effect in the frontal eye field: timing of attention during visual search. Journal of Neurophysiology 102: 1342-1343, 2009.

  • Cohen Y, Cohen JY. Statistics and Data with R: An Applied Approach Through Examples. Wiley and Sons, London, 2008.

  • Pouget P, Nelson MJ, Cohen JY, Heitz RP. Pulse-pattern sensitivity in the frontal eye field of the macaque monkey. Journal of Neuroscience 27: 11780-11781, 2007.


  • Su Z, Cohen JY. Two types of locus coeruleus norepinephrine neurons drive reinforcement learning. bioRxiv 2022.12.08.519670.

  • Chang AJ, Wang L, Lucantonio F, Adams M, Lemire A, Dudman JT, Cohen JY. Neuron-type specificity of dorsal raphe projections to ventral tegmental area. bioRxiv 2021.01.06.425641.

  • Bell BJ, Liu Q, Kim DW, Lee SS, Liu Q, Blum ID, Wang AA, Bedont JL, Chang AJ, Issa H, Cohen JY, Blackshaw S, Wu MN. A clock-driven neural network critical for arousal. bioRxiv 2020.03.12.989921.