Adam Kepecs, PhD

Adam Kepecs, PhD

Robert J. Terry Professor of Neuroscience, Professor of Psychiatry

Kepecs Lab | Google Scholar Profile


The long-term goal of the Kepecs laboratory is to reverse engineer the computational and neurobiological processes underlying cognition and decision-making and apply these insights to biological psychiatry.

The laboratory starts with quantifiable behavioral tasks, for both humans and rodents, that enable the lab to isolate and study distinct cognitive processes, such as decision confidence. The lab probes the neural basis of these processes in rodents using state-of-the-art electrophysiological, imaging, and optogenetic techniques to establish the underlying neural mechanisms. Given the complexity of behavior and the dynamics of neural networks producing it, the lab also develops new algorithms for analyzing data and models to help us interpret them. By understanding how brains accomplish cognitive tasks, often beyond the capacity of current machine learning algorithms, the lab also expects to uncover new computational principles.

In terms of topics our approach is multifaceted, currently the lab studies the neural basis of decision confidence, impulsivity, social value and foraging; the division of labor among cell-types in prefrontal cortex; communication across cortical regions; neuromodulatory systems and most recently brain-body interactions.

By identifying the neural processes underlying specific behavioral capacities in rodent models of cognition, the lab also seeks insights into what goes awry in the brain during mental illness to build a bridge from animal studies to psychiatry. Ultimately, it is hoped these insights will lead to develop novel therapeutic strategies for psychiatric disorders such as addiction, major depression, schizophrenia, and autism spectrum disorder.

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Selected publications

  • Schmack K, Bosc M, Ott T, Sturgill JF, Kepecs A. Striatal dopamine mediates hallucination-like perception in mice. Science. April 2021; 372(6537):eabf4740. doi: 10.1126/science.abf4740.
  • Hirokawa J, Vaughan A, Ott T, Masset P, Kepecs A. Frontal cortex neuron types categorically encode single decision variables. Nature. December 2019; 576:446-451.
  • Li SJ, Vaughan A, Sturgill JF, Kepecs A. A viral receptor complementation strategy to overcome CAV-2 tropism for efficient retrograde targeting of neurons. Neuron. 2018; 98(5):905-917.e5.
  • Mohanty A, Li Q, Tadayon MA, Bhatt GR, Shim E, Ji X, Cardenas J, Miller SA, Kepecs A, Lipson M. An active visible nanophotonics platform for sub millisecond deep brain neural stimulation. Proceedings Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc., 8426321. Conference on Lasers and Electro-Optics, CLEO 2018.
  • Lak A, Nomoto K, Keramati M, Sakagami M, Kepecs A. Midbrain dopamine neurons signal belief in choice accuracy during a perceptual decision. Curr Biol. 2017; 27(6):821-832.
  • Sanders JI, Hangya B, Kepecs A. Signatures of a statistical computation in the human sense of confidence. Neuron. 2016; 90(3):499-506.
  • Hangya B, Ranade SP, Lorenc M, Kepecs A. Central cholinergic neurons are rapidly recruited by reinforcement feedback. Cell. 2015; 162(5):1155-68.
  • Lak A, Costa GM, Romberg E, Koulakov AA, Mainen ZF, Kepecs A. Orbitofrontal cortex is required for optimal waiting based on decision confidence. Neuron. 2014; 84(1):190-201.
  • Kvitsiani D, Ranade S, Hangya B, Taniguchi H, Huang JZ, Kepecs A. Distinct behavioural and network correlates of two interneuron types in prefrontal cortex. Nature. 2013; 498(7454):363-6.
  • Pi HJ, Hangya B, Kvitsiani D, Sanders JI, Huang ZJ, Kepecs A. Cortical interneurons that specialize in disinhibitory control. Nature. 2013; 503(7477):521-4.


1997, BSc, Computer Science and Mathematics, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary

2002, PhD, Neuroscience, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA

Selected honors

James and Cathleen Stone Faculty Award, CSHL

Kavli Frontiers of Science Fellow

Eppendorf and Science prize for Neurobiology, Finalist

John Merck Scholar

Klingenstein Fellow

Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow

McKnight Memory & Cognitive Disorders Award