New Haven

Research in the Brain Function Laboratory  has  made fundamental contributions to understanding the neural processes for cognitive control that enable flexible goal directed behaviors including the resolution of conflict. Examples of applications include the development of brain mapping procedures for neurosurgical planning that localize regions that are specialized for important functions such as language, movement, vision, and hearing in order for surgeons to protect those functions during surgical procedures such as tumor resections. With her students and colleagues, Dr. Hirsch has developed an imaging diagnostic for autism, and discovered neural mechanisms associated with over-eating behaviors, anxiety disorders, and addictions. Visit our lab website at Yale School of Medicine here.

October 5, 2018 — Several new manuscripts have been publsihed by members of the brain function lab including studies on verbal and non-verbal interactive communication using hyperscanning and fNIRS.  The manuscripts are in the journal “Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience”.  References and direct links to the articles are below:

Hirsch J, Adam Noah J, Zhang X, Dravida S, Ono Y. A Cross-Brain Neural Mechanism for Human-to-Human Verbal Communication. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, Volume 13, Issue 9, 11 September 2018, Pages 907–920. DOI: 10.1093/scan/nsy070.

Rojiani R, Zhang X, Noah A, Hirsch J. Communication of Emotion via Drumming: Dual-Brain Imaging with Functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, September 2018. DOI: 10.1093/scan/nsy076.

The articles are open access but pdfs can also be found on the publications section of this website here.

October 4 – 8, 2018 — Members of the Brain Function Lab will be attending and presenting current work at the Society for fNIRS conference in Tokyo, Japan.  If you happen to be around Tokyo University please stop by our posters or our presentations.


Current Events:

May 31, 2018 — The work of the Brain Function Lab is featured in Scitech Europa. “The new neuroscience of ‘two’: the challenge to understand communicating brains” Full article here.

The new neuroscience of ‘two’: the challenge to understand communicating brains

March 1, 2018 – Dr.Hirsch and the social research in the Brain Function Lab was highlighted in issue 124 of Research Features magazine, titled: “Celebrating Women in Science”.  The entire issue is available online for free here. A pdf of the article “Two brain neuroscience: understanding our social selves” is available here.

Century of women at Yale School of Medicine: Dr. Hirsch was recently featured as one of the distinguished women at the Yale School of Medicine.  More information is available here.

November 10-15, 2017 – The members of the Brain Function Lab attended the Society for Social Neuroscience and the Society for Neuroscience meetings in Washington, DC.  The lab presented many posters and talks. A full list is available here.

April 20, 2017 – An undergraduate student in the lab, Jenny Jeiyoun Park showed her senior thesis for her degree in Art.  The Painting represents influential aspects of Jenny’s second life as a scientist.

March 16, 2017 – The Atlantic interviewed Dr. Hirsch recently regarding proposed budget cuts to NIH research.  The article and Dr. Hirsch’s comments can be found here.


February 23, 2017 from 4:00-5:30 p.m. – Dr. Hirsch will be presenting work from our lab at Gallaudet University. The lecture will be in the Library, (MLB) Room B111.  There will be a reception to follow. A live stream of the lecture will be available and archived at  Additional info below:


Human brains are primarily adapted for social interaction and communication. However, the underlying neural processes associated with social interaction and communication are not well-understood. This knowledge gap reflects both conventional limitations in neuroimaging methods that are restricted to single individuals and not conducive to investigations of naturally occurring human interactions, and also a limited theoretical framework for understanding human interpersonal interactions. Both are addressed by recent developments that include: 1) a novel hyperscanning technology (functional near-infrared spectroscopy, fNIRS) that acquires hemodynamic signals simultaneously between two naturally interacting partners using a spectral absorbance technique that detects changes in hemodynamic signals acquired by surface-mounted optodes, and 2) a recently proposed Interactive Brain Hypothesis that establishes a broad theoretical framework for two-person social neuroscience. This hypothesis is based on the assumptions that two-way communications elicit specific neural processes some of which will synchronize across interacting brains. Here I present evidence for these assumptions based on two social behaviors, eye-to-eye contact and verbal dialogue. Hemodynamic signals associated with eye-to-eye contact between partners (interactive condition) were compared with signals associated with mutual gaze at eyes in a picture of a face (non-interactive condition). Similar signals for picture naming and description in a dialogue (interactive) condition were compared with picture-naming and description in a monologue (non-interactive) condition. Consistent with the Interactive Brain Hypothesis, both eye-to-eye contact effects and dialogue effects were observed in a left frontal and temporal-parietal complex including the canonical language system. Further, cross-brain synchrony observed by wavelet analysis in the interactive conditions was observed for the temporal-parietal complex. These findings are consistent with the Interactive Brain Hypothesis and suggest a model of neural specializations for communication that links eye-to-eye contact and language systems via frontal, central, and temporal-parietal networks.


January 31, 2017 – Work from the Brain Function lab in collaboration with Jamie McPartland was featured in Spectrum. The article discusses the benefits of fNIRS for studies of social brain function and suggests there is a new frontier of “interactive social neuroscience” or “second-person neuroscience” developing that will allow for better understanding of the social difficulties associated with autism. The full text of the article is here.



November 12-16, 2016 – Members of the Brain Function Lab attended the Society for Neuroscience annual conference  in San Diego, California.  We presented a series of posters and symposia focusing on social neuroscience and applications of fNIRS. The titles are listed below:


November 11, 2016 – Members of the Brain Function Lab attended the Society for Social Neuroscience meeting in San Diego, California.  We presented a poster focusing on direct eye-to-eye contact in real-world conditions.

Joy Hirsch, J. Adam Noah, Xian Zhang, Swethasri Dravida, Ilias Tachtsidis: Neural correlates of eye-to-eye contact include language and social systems: An fNIRS hyperscanning investigation


October 13 – 16, 2016 – Members of the Brain Function Lab recently attended the bi-annual conference of the Society for Nearinfrared Spectroscopy in Paris France.  The conference was at the Université Paris Descartes.  More information about the conference is at the following link.  Three posters and an oral session were presented.

Joy Hirsch, J. Adam Noah, Xian Zhang, Swethasri Dravida, Ilias Tachtsidis: Identification of Neural Systems Involved in Interpersonal Eye-to-Eye Contact: An fNIRS Hyperscanning Investigation.

J. Adam Noah, Swethasri Dravida, Xian Zhang, and Joy Hirsch: Deoxyhemoglobin changes in right lateralized DLPFC represent conflict processing in a color-word Stroop task.

Xian Zhang, J. Adam Noah, Swethasri Dravida, and Joy Hirsch: A comparison of fMRI and fNIRS deoxyhemoglobin signals: A global component removal approach.

Swethasri Dravida, J. Adam Noah, Xian Zhang, & Joy Hirsch: Consistency in fNIRS Recordings during Digit-Manipulation Tasks.

Another article by George Putic titled “Scientists Explore How Brains Work During Conversations” appeared on Voice of America on June 25, 2015. A link to the article is here and the video from the article is below:


AP Article by Malcolm Ritter (June 22, 2015): “Lasers, magnetism allow glimpses of the human brain at work”  Also appeared on the NY Times and the Hartford Courant.  Video below (with original link to YouTube here:


New Publication (June 15, 2015) – Noah, J. A., et al. (2015). “fMRI Validation of fNIRS Measurements During a Naturalistic Task.” (100): e52116. Video below; pdf available here.  Full link to article here.


Karten and Hirsch 2015New Publication (May 27, 2015) – Karten, A. and J. Hirsch (2015). Brief report: anomalous neural deactivations and functional connectivity during receptive language in autism spectrum disorder: a functional MRI study. J Autism Dev Disord 45(6): 1905-1914.









March 5, 2015 – Dr. Hirsch was interviewed by Carl Zimmer of the New York Times for a piece on Genius at Big Think.  The video and more information is listed in our “In the Media” page.  Click here for the direct link.





Shaul-posterNovember 15-19, 2014 – The members of the Brain Function Lab attended the annual Society for Neuroscience conference in Washington, D.C.  Dr. Hirsch chaired a nanosymposium on  Language: Spoken and Written.  Four abstracts were submitted and presented at poster sessions. The posters were presented in the Language and Brain Dynamics, Executive Function I (a,b) and Multisensory: Cross Modal Processing in Humans sections.  Links to the pdf files of the posters are given here and in the Abstracts section of the Publications section of this website.




September 25, 2014.  The Brain Function Laboratory received their new Shimadzu LABNIRS. This is a cutting edge brain imaging tool with up to 114 channels and is specifically designed to acquire simultaneous signals from multiple subjects during social interactions.





OSTP Nobel Laureates 2013 1November 20, 2013 – Joy Hirsch meets with President Obama in the Oval Office as her husband, James Rothman, is honored as an American Nobel Laureate. White House story here and weekly West Wing Week video blog here. An excerpt of the video can be seen below.




Rothman Obama Hirsch  Rothman Hirsch Obama Hirsch Obama Rothman



Images from Nobel Prize Ceremony (December 10, 2013)

Left. Images with King, Queen, and Princes of Sweden with Medicine laureates and wives
Middle.  James Rothman, Medicine laureate, and wife, Joy Hirsch
Right. Joy Hirsch with Crown Prince Daniel

al_nobel13_prinsensgalleri_3 NobelRothmanHirsch Joy Hirsch Prince Daniel Nobel Banquet 2013

Swedish newspapers and Magazines cover the ceremony (11 Dec 2013) 

Top 5 Nobel gowns:  Joy Hirsch gets voted top gown.

Top 5 Nobel Dresses 4 Stars