Anthony Zador, MD, PhD

Alle Davis Harris Professor of Biology
Program Chair in Neuroscience

My laboratory is interested in how neural circuits underlie decision making, particularly in the auditory cortex. To address these questions, we use a combination of computational, electrophysiological and imaging techniques at the molecular, synaptic, cellular, circuit and behavioral levels.

Research in the lab is organized into two broad areas. On the physiology side, we study how the cortex represents sounds, how these representations are converted into actions, and how they are modulated by attention, motivation and other cognitive variables. We mostly study rodents (both rats and mice) performing two-alternative choice tasks in which the subject uses sounds and other stimuli to make a decision. Our behavioral approaches are inspired by work in awake behaving primates, but we use rodents as the model system, we can exploit the full armamentarium of modern cellular and molecular neuroscience techniques.

The second research area is the development of a technique to sequence the connectome. The basic idea is that DNA sequencing technologies are fast and cheap, and getting faster and cheaper by the day---the race is for the "thousand dollar genome." So our idea is to convert the problem of the connectome (ie figuring out which neurons are connected to which other neurons) into a problem amenable to sequencing. I hope that this approach will revolutionize neuroscience.

Recent CONNECTOME publications (click here for a full list)

  • Zador, A., Dubnau, J.,Oyibo, H., Zhan, H., Gang, C. and Peikon, I. (2012) "Sequencing the connectome." Plos Biology, 10:e1001411

  • Marblestone A., Daugharthy E., Kalhor R., Peikon I., Kebschull J., Shipman S., Mischchenko Y., Lee J. Kording K., Boyden E., Zador A. and Church G. (2014) "Rosetta Brains:A Strategy for Molecularly -Annotated Connectomics" arXiv:1404.5103

  • Peikon, I., Gizatullina, D. and Zador, A. (2014) "In vivo generation of DNA sequence diversity for cellular barcoding" Nucleic Acids Research, doi:10.1093/nar/gku604

  • Kebschull JM and Zador AM (2015) "Sources of PCR-induced distortions in high-throughput sequencing data sets." Nucleic Acids Research,

    Recent DECISION-MAKING publications (click here for a full list)

  • Xiong, Q., Znamenskiy, P., & Zador, A.M. (2015) Selective corticostriatal plasticity during acquisition of an auditory discrimination task. Nature 521: 348-51.

  • Jaramillo & Zador, A.M. (2014) Mice and rats achieve similar levels of performance in an adaptive decision-making task. Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience, 8:173

  • Jaramillo, S., Borges, K., and Zador, A.M. (2014) Auditory Thalamus and Auditory Cortex Are Equally Modulated by Context during Flexible Categorization of Sounds. J. Neursoci., 34(15): 5291-5301.

  • Znamenskiy, P. and Zador, A. (2013) "Corticostriatal neurones in auditory cortex drive decisions during auditory descrimination" Nature, 497:482-486

    More about me

    I have been on the faculty at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory since 1999. As a graduate student at Yale, I trained in theoretical neuroscience and neural networks; this training leads me to think about all problems from a mathematical and computational perspective. During this time collaborated with Christof Koch, who was then at Caltech. Along the way I also obtained an MD degree, from Yale.

    I then did postdoctoral work on synaptic physiology with Chuck Stevens at the Salk Institute. During this time I also collaborated with Tom Albright's lab to understand how area MT of a monkey encodes rapid fluctuations in visual motion.

    When I came to CSHL I decided that I wanted to study sensory processing and decision-making in rodents. My plan was to apply the powerful experimental tools from slice physiology to questions in systems neuroscience. However, at that time rodents no one had developed a rodent behavior comparable to the classic two-alternative choice paradigms used to study decision making in nonhuman primates. Therefore, in collaboration with my close (former) colleague Zach Mainen, we set out to develop such a paradigm. This has worked out well, and the study of sensory processing and decision making in rodents is now a well-established alternative to traditional primate studies.

    As a postdoc I also organized a series of workshops on Neural Information and Coding. I then broadened the scope of these and founded the annual Computational and Systems Neuroscience (COSYNE) meeting, which now draws over 600 participants, and is arguably the leading meeting on theoretical and systems neuroscience.


  • "The Rat Pack" Nature, 465:282-283. [This is about me, not by me]

    Zador Lab People