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The CBIC was founded in 2003 through a generous gift from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. The very ambitious and ultimate mission of the Center is to understand human consciousness. On our way to achieve our mission, the researchers of the CBIC are also pursuing several intermediate goals of importance:

  • to explore the neural basis of higher brain function
  • to develop new tools for the imaging of brain structure and function
  • to train a diverse student and faculty group in structural and functional neuroimaging
  • to foster interdisciplinary research in brain science

Researchers at the CBIC use state of the art MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scanners to conduct research studies of the brain and its mechanisms. Our 8,100 square foot main campus facility houses four High-Field MR systems:

  • Siemens 3 Tesla 32 channel Tim Trio
  • Siemens 3 Tesla 18 channel Tim Trio with AC88 gradient insert
  • Bruker 7 Tesla 20 cm bore combined PET/MRI system
  • Bruker 4.7 Tesla vertical bore system

















Recent Publications & Media Coverage

Wine-tasting Brain-imaging Study Shows Price Influences Perception (fMRI)

Dr.s A. Rangel, Assoc. Prof. of economics at Caltech, and H. Plassmann found that the stated price of a sampled wine influenced both how good volunteers thought it tasted, and the activity of a brain region involved in experience of pleasure. Plassmann had 20 volunteers taste wine samples which, they were told, differed in retail price from $5 to $90. While the subjects tasted the wines, their brains were scanned using fMRI. Subjects reported they liked the $90 bottle better than the $10 one. Brain scans of the medial orbitofrontal cortex, showed higher activity when drinking wines rated as more pleasurable.

The catch, however, was that the subjects had actually sampled the identical ($90) wine labeled with two different prices. When told the wine cost $90, they loved it; the same wine at $10, not so much. 

Journal Article    Press Release

Primary somatosensory cortex discriminates affective significance in social touch

A nuzzle of the neck, a stroke of the wrist, a brush of the knee—these caresses often signal a loving touch, but can also feel highly aversive, depending on who is delivering the touch, and to whom. Interested in how the brain makes connections between touch and emotion, neuroscientists at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have discovered that the association begins in the brain's primary somatosensory cortex, a region that, until now, was thought only to respond to basic touch, not to its emotional quality.

Journal Article    Press Release

Intact Bilateral Resting-State Networks in the Absence of the Corpus Callosum

Like a bridge that spans a river to connect two major metropolises, the corpus callosum is the main conduit for information flowing between the left and right hemispheres of our brains. Now, neuroscientists at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have found that people who are born without that link—a condition called agenesis of the corpus callosum, or AgCC—still show remarkably normal communication across the gap between the two halves of their brains. 

Journal Article     Press Release


Focusing attention on the health aspects of foods changes value signals in the vmPFC and improves dietary choice


You're trying to decide what to eat for dinner. Should it be the chicken and broccoli? The super-sized fast-food burger? Skip it entirely and just get some Rocky Road? Making that choice, it turns out, is a complex neurological exercise. But, according to researchers from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), it's one that can be influenced by a simple shifting of attention toward the healthy side of life. And that shift may provide strategies to help us all make healthier choices—not just in terms of the foods we eat, but in other areas, like whether or not we pick up a cigarette.

Journal Article    Press Release

A category-specific response to animals in the right human amygdala

Some people feel compelled to pet every furry animal they see on the street, while others jump at the mere sight of a shark or snake on the television screen. No matter what your response is to animals, it may be thanks to a specific part of your brain that is hardwired to rapidly detect creatures of the nonhuman kind. In fact, researchers from Caltech and UCLA report that neurons throughout the amygdala—a center in the brain known for processing emotional reactions—respond preferentially to images of animals.

Journal Article    Press Release

Insensitivity to social reputation in autism

People with autism process information in unusual ways and often have difficulties in their social interactions in everyday life. While this can be especially striking in those who are otherwise high functioning, characterizing this difficulty in detail has been challenging. Now, researchers from Caltech have isolated a very specific difference in how high-functioning people with autism think about other people, finding that—in actuality—they don’t tend to think about what others think of them at all.

Journal Article    Press Release


Hedging your bets by learning reward correlations in the human brain

When making decisions based on multiple interdependent factors—such as what combination of stocks and bonds to invest in—humans look at how the factors correlate with each other, according to a new study by researchers from Caltech and University College London. The finding suggests our brains are constantly doing calculations that enable us to keep track of correlations between dynamic factors. These correlations allow us to observe the outcome of one action and then infer the outcomes of other related actions or events without having to experience them individually.

Journal Article    Press Release