Columbia University Medical Center


Randy Bruno, PhD

Randy Bruno, PhD
  • Department of Neuroscience
  • Associate Professor of Neuroscience

How do the neural networks of the cerebral cortex mediate sensation? Sensory information from the environment—for touch, sight, hearing, taste, and smell—is encoded by cascades of excitation among neurons. As excitation spreads, these circuits transform the information into new representations that drive our behaviors. Neural processing underlies not only sensation but also working memory, decision making, and action planning and is inseparable from the circuits transforming that information. My laboratory has been conducting anatomical, physiological, imaging, and behavioral experiments to investigate the workings of sensory circuits, specifically in barrel cortex, which mediates rodents’ sense of touch with their large facial whiskers. We employ a variety of methods in our experiments, ranging from in vivo intracellular and extracellular recording, two-photon microscopy, optogenetics, to computational modeling. Recently, our laboratory began focusing on the role of cortical layers in specific behaviors.

Education & Training

  • BS, 1995 Cognitive Science, Carnegie-Mellon University
  • PhD, 2002 Neurobiology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
  • Primary Lab Locations

    Jerome L. Greene Science Center

    3227 Broadway
    New York, NY 10027

    (212) 853-1045
    Lab Phone:
    (212) 853-1046


    Member, The Society for Neuroscience

    Member, The Kavli Institute for Brain Science

    Member, The Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute

    Honors & Awards

    2010 Klingenstein Fellow

    2010 Rita Allen Scholar

    2013 Harold and Golden Lamport Research Award in the Basic Sciences (Columbia University)

    2013 (inaugural) Grossman-Kavli Scholar

    2013 Society for Neuroscience Young Investigator Award

    2014 Ludwig Schaefer Research Scholar



    Lab Website

    Past Positions

    2003-2007 Postdoctoral Researcher with Prof. Bert Sakmann

    Dept. of Cell Physiology, Max Planck Institute for Medical Research, Heidelberg, Germany


    Teaching Responsibilities

    Data Analysis for Neuroscientists (director)

    Issues in Neural Circuitry (director)

    Neuroscience section, The Body in Health & Disease II (lecturer)

    Research Interests

    Sensory Physiology
    Theoretical neuroscience
    Cognitive/Systems neuroscience
    Synapses and circuits

    Lab Members

  • Publications

    Lacefield CO et al (2019) Reinforcement learning recruits somata and apical dendrites across layers of primary sensory cortex. Cell Reports 26:1–9

    Zhang W and Bruno RM (2019) High-order thalamic inputs to primary somatosensory cortex are stronger and longer lasting than cortical inputs. eLife 8:e44158.

    Hong YK et al (2018) Sensation, movement, and learning in the absence of barrel cortex. Nature 561(7724):542-546.

    Ramirez A et al  (2014) Spatiotemporal receptive fields of barrel cortex revealed by reverse correlation of synaptic input. Nat.Neurosci. 17: 866-75

    Schoonover CE et al (2014) Comparative strength and dendritic organization of thalamocortical and corticocortical synapses onto excitatory layer 4 neurons. J.Neurosci. 34: 6746-58

    Constantinople CM and Bruno RM (2013) Deep cortical layers are activated directly by thalamus. Science 340: 1591-4

    Oberlaender M, Ramirez A and Bruno RM (2012) Sensory experience restructures thalamocortical axons in adulthood. Neuron 74: 648-655

    Constantinople CM and Bruno RM (2011) Effects and mechanisms of wakefulness on local cortical networks. Neuron 69: 1061-1068

    Bruno RM (2011) Synchrony in sensation. Curr.Opin.Neurobiol. 21: 701-708