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National Research University Higher School of EconomicsStrategic Academic UnitsCognitive Neuroscience: From Computational Models to Neurotechnology

Cognitive Neuroscience: From Computational Models to Neurotechnology

Cognitive Neuroscience: From Computational Models to Neurotechnology

Research Adviser
Yury Shtyrov

PhD, Leading Research Fellow at the HSE Centre for Cognition & Decision Making, Professor at the Centre for Functionally Integrative Neuroscience Institute for Clinical Medicine at Aarhus University
H-index: 30

Vasily Klucharev

Candidate of Sciences in Neurobiology, Head of the HSE School of Psychology
H-index: 9

Strategic Academic Unit Structure and System

Strategic Academic Unit 'Cognitive Neurosciences: From Models to Neurotechnologies' fall into the second type of HSE Strategic Units.

Management Committee (Heads of Key Units)


Alexis Belianin

HSE, International Institute of Economics and Finance, associate professor; HSE, Experimental and Behavioral Laboratory, Laboratory Supervisor

Olga Dragoy

HSE, Humanities Department, School of Philology, Associate Professor; HSE, Neurolinguistics Scientific-Educational Laboratory, Laboratory Supervisor

Igor Utochkin

HSE, Social Studies Department, Psychology Department, Associate Professor; HSE, Cognitive Studies Scientific-Educational Laboratory, Laboratory Supervisor

Anna Shestakova

HSE, Neuroeconomics and Cognitive Studies Center, Director

International Advisory Council


To establish a research and educational center of excellence that integrates cognitive neuroscience and information science in order to construct interdisciplinary models of human behavior and to implement these models in the cutting-edge neurotechnologies.

Main Objectives

  • Developing new interdisciplinary models of normal and pathological behavior, including computational models of perception, communication and decision-making;
  • Implementing the achievements of modern cognitive neurosciences, information sciences and cognitive psychology in neurotechnologies for regeneration, preservation and enhancement of human brain resources as well as for integration of human brain with IT and robotic devices;
  • Providing research and educational support to the NeuroNet national technological initiative (NTI) in neurotechnology aimed at integrating modern global technologies of Life Sciences with novel data mining algorithms and robotic devices;
  • Launching interdisciplinary post-graduate’s and Master’s neurotechnology and cognitive neuroscience programs in English that will be competitive on the global education market.

Main Anticipated Deliverables

  • The first Russian research center in neuroeconomics: neurobiological mechanisms of decision-making;
  • National platform for integrating interdisciplinary (combining social, economic, cognitive and information sciences) studies of human behavior using hi-tech “neuroimaging” approaches. This initiative will help HSE be a part of the global modern research in bioscience;
  • Cutting-edge software for mapping the complex cortical activity in the human brain;
  • New brain stimulation protocols for research and diagnostic study of the patients;
  • New-generation communicative systems: brain-computer, interfaces integrated with biofeedback algorithms;
  • New approaches for prediction of behavior and optimization of decision-making in different social contexts;
  • Unified database of the experimental neurophysiological data for interdisciplinary research;
  • Launch of the joint Master-Doctoral level tracks in cognitive sciences and neurotechnologies;
  • Synchronization of the curricula between Master’s programs 'Cognitive Sciences and Technologies: From Neuron to Knowledge' (Faculty of Social Sciences) and “Data Analysis in Biology and Medicine” (Faculty of Computer Science);
  • Recognition of HSE in the international academic community, based on the university’s position in top global rankings: HSE should rank in the Top 100 of QS World University Ranking by Faculty in Social Sciences & Management, in the Top 100 of QS World University Ranking by Subject in Economics & Econometrics and in the Top 150 of QS World University Ranking by Subject in Psychology.

Key Subdivisions and Associated Units


 Grant proposal (PDF, 756 Kb)

 Roadmap (DOCX, 131 Kb)

Key Educational Programs and Their Development

Master’s program 'Cognitive Sciences and Technologies: From Neuron to Cognition'

  • The English-taught program is central to the Stategic Academic Unit. It is the only Master’s program in cognitive and neurosciences in Russia that is taught fully in English; currently 40 students (including 4 international ones) are enrolled in the program. École Normale Supérieure (Paris, France) and Aarhus University (Aarhus, Denmark) are the key partners of the program. They participate in the development of the program’s curriculum and teaching as well as in the supervision students’ projects. The academic supervisor of the program is Dr. Anna Shestakova.

Master’s program Data Mining in Biology and Medicine

  • CN Stategic Academic Unit will take part in the development of this master’s program in cooperation with the Faculty of Computer Science. The new program is created in close cooperation with A.N. Belozersky Research Institute of Physico-Chemical Biology MSU; with Institute of N. A. Vavilov Institute of General Genetics RAS and with Leiden University. The program focuses on new methods in biological (genetic, neural, etc.) data analysis and is to be launched in September 2016. The academic supervisor of the program is Mikhail Gelfand. The program plans to enroll 25 students (with 3-5 of them being international) per year and focuses on cognitive sciences, neuroscience and neurotechnology.

By 2020, the Stategic Academic Unit is planning to:

  • Provide students with more opportunities to attend interdisciplinary courses on Life Sciences by synchronizing the curriculum of the two Master’s programs;
  • Increase the percentage of foreign students in the English-speaking programs up to 25% and sign a partnership agreement with one of the world’s leading universities to facilitate double-degree programs;
  • Develop short modular courses in neurotechnologies targeting practitioners;
  • Develop in the next three years the Master-Doctoral level track in cooperation with Doctoral School of Psychology, which will allow talented students to enter the post-graduate program. Through optimizing the theoretical curriculum, students will be able to finalize their qualification projects (theses) earlier and will have more time for conducting research. The competitiveness of this track is to be confirmed by the increase in percentage of foreign postgraduates in the English-speaking track up to 25%.

Key Research Projects and Their Development

1. Neuroeconomics models of decision-making in various social contexts

Project heads: Boris Gutkin, HSE/Ecole normale supérieur, Vasily Klucharev, HSE, Alexis Belianin, HSE.

HSE has developed the only center of neuroeconomics studies in Russia. CN Stategic Academic Unit researchers develop neurobiological models of decision-making processes interruptions, for example, a model of nicotine addiction (Gutkin et al, 2006), as well as models of cross-cultural differences in decision-making processes (Kroger et al, 2015). CN Stategic Academic Unit members have developed pioneering models of brain mechanisms of social influence on decision making processes (Klucharev et al, 2009; Huber et al, 2015).

By 2020 we are planning to continue our interdisciplinary projects and to develop neuroeconomics models of:

  • neurobiological mechanisms of valuation (processing of subjective values) during binary choices;
  • decision-making in social groups in different social contexts (including various forms of social influence);
  • neurotechnologies aiming to optimize the decision-making processes, to create applications for consumer research;

The most important international partners of CN Stategic Academic Unit are Ecole normale supérieure (Paris, France), and Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin. Russian partners include theHSE Faculty of Computer Science, USI MEG-center of MSPPU, Neurology center of RAS, Kurchatov Institute National Research Center.

2. Dynamic brain connectomics: algorithms, paradigms and tools

Project heads: Vadim Nikulin, HSE/Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin; Alexey Ossadtchi, HSE.

The CN Stategic Academic Unit’s Connectomics group has developed novel approaches to studying neural network dynamics, which are based on the neural data collected with the help of various technologies, including electroencephalography (EEG), magnetoencephalography (MEG) and functional MEG (fMEG), transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), optical imaging (OI) (for example, ref. Greenblatt et al, 2012; Nikulin et al, 2014).

The project is being implemented in cooperation with the Faculty of Computer Science (HSE), MEG-center of MSPPU (the only magnetoencephalography – MEG - center in Russia) and with the Research Institute of Neurosurgery named for N. N. Burdenko.

By 2020 the CN Stategic Academic Unit will develop a platform that will be able to support the new generation of brain mapping software focusing on dynamics of neural networks. CN’s computer programs and algorithms will be used in neuroimaging of the whole brain and incorporated into most popular hard- and software tools and packages analyzing brain signal obtained with the help of the following methodologies: functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), EEG, MEG, TMS, direct durrent stimulation (tDCS), alternating current stimulation (tACS), etc. Overall, CN Stategic Academic Unit engines and algorithms will be used in studies of neural networks dynamics underling various cognitive functions and for diagnostics and pre-surgical mapping of the patients.

3. A universal “brain-computer interface with biofeedback” that can be used individually or by a group of individuals

Project heads: Mikhail Lebedev, Duke University, USA, Alexey Ossadtchi, HSE.

Academic personnel and partners of CN Stategic Academic Unit are the national leaders in the field of Neurointerfaces, a modern and rapidly growing technique for the rehabilitation of patients with neurological disorders and for enabling people to operate external devices using their brain activity (Lebedev & Nicolelis 2006). CN Stategic Academic Unit actively cooperates with Lobachevsky State University of Nizhni Novgorod in neurointerfaces development (two large joint research grants), having a unique expertise in developing algorithm for the analysis of the brain dynamic signals. The Stategic Academic Unit specialists have developed new approaches to creating interfaces (Okorokova et al, 2015, Shokur et al, 2013) and they are planning to develop the universal interface by the year of 2020 that will be able to receive various bioelectrical signals as the input and to generate the “brain-computer” and “biofeedback” signals as the output. It will also enable the users to connect with each other through a neurocomputer network.

By the end of the project we will have a universal interface with the following components:

  • Multichannel electromyographic interface for the emulation of handwriting;
  • Electroencephalographic (EEG) interface with a biofeedback;
  • Multichannel electrocorticographic (ECoG) interface with a biofeedback;
  • Interface for transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS-interface);
  • Interface for electric brain stimulation.

Our comprehensive brain-computer interface with standardized protocols will help to make the development of next-generation brain-computer devices more simple and quick as well as allow for the creation of hybrid devices.

The primary partners of the project are Duke University Medicine Center (USA) and Lobachevsky State University of Nizhni Novgorod, which cooperate on developing computational and engineering solutions for the interfaces.

4. Speech neurotechnology: objective, noninvasive measures of cognitive functions underling normal speech and speech disorders.

Project heads: Yury Shtyrov, HSE/ Aarhus University, Denmark, Olga Dragoy, HSE.

Project head Professor Yury Shtyrov is one of the leading experts in the field of neural mechanisms of speech (Pulvermüller & Shtyrov, 2006). Pursuing this line of research, CN Stategic Academic Unit extensively studied normal speech (Shtyrov et al, 2014), and speech disorders (Laurinavichyute et al, 2014). The project is particularly focused on further studies of neuronal basis of the speech pathology.

By 2020, we are planning to reveal specific brain mechanisms of different speech pathologies and ways of compensatory reorganization of speech mechanisms in the brain. For this, various MEG-, fMRI- and TMS-based objective noninvasive measures of cognitive functions (attention, lexicon-semantic memory, etc.), optimal protocols for noninvasive mapping of neuronal activity underlying cognition and production of normal speech and impaired speech (for example, in aphasia) will be developed.

Major Russian and foreign project partners are: (1) the Moscow Health Department Speech Pathology Neurorehabilitation Center, which investigates aphatic patients (the center provides Siemens 1.5Т Avanto magnetic resonance imaging scanner); (2) the Center of Advanced Studies at the University of Pavia (Italy), in cooperation with which we are developing a new method for the neurovisualisation of language.

5. Genetic “personalization” of neuroplasticity induced by noninvasive brain stimulation.

Project head: Matteo Feurra, HSE

The most recent studies of Professor Feurra’s group have shown that methods of noninvasive brain stimulation (NIBS) can have a significant effect on the efficiency of the neuronal networks on physiological and behavioral levels, including improvement of cognitive capacity, called the “neuroenhancement” effect (Santarnecchi et al, 2013; Feurra et al, 2011). These and others studies of CN Stategic Academic Unit demonstrate a relationship between single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) and the effectiveness of NIBS protocols (Shpektor et al, 2015). The project focuses on the development of new genetic “personalized” protocols of brain stimulation for pre-surgical brain mapping, for rehabilitation and for new methods of strengthening cognitive functions using NIBS. The project will result in the development of cutting-edge algorithms of genetic personalization of neuroplasticity effects for noninvasive brain stimulation.

Considering strong variability of patients’ sensitivity to brain stimulation, our understanding of genetic mechanisms underlying brain plasticity induced by NIBS will help to develop new methods to select most the effective NIBS and choose optimal stimulation protocol, i.e. to personalize brain stimulation.

The primary partners for this project – Goldsmiths, University of London, Tomsk National Research University and Psychological Institute of the Russian Educational Academy – will perform genetic analysis for differences “candidate” single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) that can underlie individual differences in neuroplasticity evoked by NIBS.