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Welcome to the

Stochastic Cognition Lab

at Whitehead Institute

How do we choose when we can’t know the right answer or the right answer might not even exist? The philosopher al¬Ghazali reasoned free will lies in our ability to act under uncertainty, in situations where we can only pick “randomly” at best. Intriguingly, such (effectively) stochastic behavior may be the key to intelligence. Machine learning algorithms depend on stochasticity, and probabilistic cognitive models explain human reasoning in situations where artificial intelligence struggles. What neural mechanisms enable us to behave so spontaneously? Our lab aims to answer these questions by dissecting the role of neural circuits disrupted in neurological and psychiatric disease. Drawing on clinical insight and intuition, we train mice to do complex behaviors, do neurosurgeries to record and manipulate neural circuits with optogenetics, and use computational modeling to understand how these circuits give rise to spontaneous behavior.

About the team

The SCL is the lab of Allison Hamilos at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research. We are an inclusive group of passionate and curious scientists committed to advancing our understanding of the brain, both to improve patient care and to chase down the answers to what makes us who we are.