Joshua Jacobs, PhD

Joshua Jacobs, PhD

Research Interest

The ability to orient and navigate in spatial environments is a vital part of life for both humans and animals.  Research in my laboratory examines the neural systems in humans that support spatial navigation and memory.  Our objective is to characterize the principles underlying how the human brain represents spatial information during navigation and to test how these signals are used to support memory and other behaviors.

In our experiments we record single-neuron and field-potential activity from neurosurgical patients who have electrodes surgically implanted in deep brain structures, including the hippocampus and entorhinal cortex.  During recording, patients perform computer-based virtual navigation tasks. We analyze these recordings to identify neurons whose activity represents location and other navigational variables during movement, similar to measurements of “place” and “grid” cells in rodents, and then compare how these representations vary when patients perform other spatial tasks.

There are several broader goals of this work. First, we are interested in comparing the neural representation of space between humans and animals to identify common and distinctive aspects of spatial coding between species. Second, we test whether the neural coding of location during movement is similar to the brain patterns used to encode memories.  Third, we engage in translational research to develop brain stimulation protocols for enhancing human spatial memory to help patients who experience cognitive impairment due to aging or disease.

1.     Jacobs, J., Weidemann, C., Burke, J., Miller, J., Wei, X., Solway, A., Sperling, M., Sharan, A., Fried, I., Kahana, M. (2013). Direct recordings of grid cells in human spatial navigation. Nature Neuroscience. 16(9), 1188–1190.
2.     Zhang, H., Jacobs, J., (2015). Traveling theta oscillations in the human hippocampus. The Journal of Neuroscience.  25(36), 12477–12487.
3.     Miller, J., Fried,. I.F., Suthana, N., Jacobs, J. (2015). Repeating Spatial Activations in Human Entorhinal Cortex. Current Biology.
4.     Jacobs, J. (2014). Hippocampal theta oscillations are slower in humans than in rodents: Implications for models of spatial navigation and memory. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Academy of Sciences B. 369: 20130304.
5.     Jacobs, J., Lega, B. & Anderson, C. (2012). Explaining how brain stimulation can evoke memories. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. 24(3), 553–563.

Preview Articles:
* Qasim, S. & Jacobs, J. (in press). Human hippocampal theta oscillations during movement without visual cues. Neuron.
* Jacobs, J. & Lee, S. A. (in press). Spatial Cognition: Grid cells support imagined navigation. Current Biology.