In Honor Of… Michael Posner
Honoring scientists who have made important and lasting contributions to the sciences of mind, brain, and behavior.
Michael Posner, PhD
University of Oregon
Adjunct Professor of Psychology in Psychiatry
Weill Medical College of Cornell
Michael Posner is currently Professor Emeritus at the University of Oregon and Adjunct Professor of Psychology in Psychiatry at the Weill Medical College of Cornell, where he served as founding director of the Sackler Institute. Posner is best known for his work with Marcus Raichle on imaging the human brain during cognitive tasks. He has worked on the anatomy, circuitry, development and genetics of three attentional networks underlying maintaining alertness, orienting to sensory events and voluntary control of thoughts and ideas. His methods for measuring these networks have been applied to a wide range of neurological, psychiatric and developmental disorders. His current research involves training of attention in young children to understand the interaction of specific experience and genes in shaping attention.
With a passion for understanding the mind and how it is implemented by the brain, Posner helped develop and then transform the field of cognitive psychology. Conceptualizing complex mental activities (like thinking, attention and reading) as an “orchestration” of elementary mental operations, Posner’s chronometric neuroscientific methods, now at the foundations of contemporary cognitive neuroscience: cognitive neuropsychology and neuroimaging. The possibility that such elementary mental operations might be executed by specific neural circuits was suggested by Posner’s pioneering studies of patients with brain damage and later demonstrated by his seminal neuroimaging studies with Marcus Raichle and others. Most recently, working with Mary Rothbart and others Posner has led the way in understanding the roles of genetics and environment (including education and training) and their interaction in mediating the development of cognitive processes.
Throughout his career Posner’s contributions have been characterized by innovation, imagination and inspiration. In the 1960’s-1970’s he led the field in the innovative use of computers in psychological research and in the use of mental chronometry to explore cognition; in the 1980’s he led the field in the innovative use of patients and neuroimaging techniques to explore how these processes are implemented in the brain; and since the 1990’s he has led us in the use of development, training & genetics to understand individual differences and improve education. He has been uncannily imaginative in his development of model tasks (letter matching; probe-interference; spatial cuing) that precisely target the mental operations of interest. And through his contagious passion for understanding, his kindness and collegiality, he has inspired legions of admiring and productive students, post-doctoral fellows and colleagues.
For his scientific contributions Michael Posner has received many awards (see the introduction to Mayr, Awh & Keele (Eds.) “Developing Individuality in the Human Brain: A Tribute to Michael Posner,” APA Books), but the ones that matter are the intellectual progress and real-world applications generated by his innovative, imaginative and inspiring contributions.
Individuals Honoring Michael Posner:
Kent C. Berridge, University of Michigan
Betty Casey, Cornell University
Suzanne H. Corkin, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Maria Rosario Rueda Cuerva, University of Granada
Jin Fan, Mount Sinai School of Medicine
Diego Fernandez Duque, Villanova University
John Fossella, Mount Sinai School of Medicine
Morton Ann Gernsbacher, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Harold Hawkins, Office of Naval Research
Wendy A. Kellogg, IBM
* Raymond Klein, Dalhousie University
Juan Lupianez, University of Granada
Bruce McCandliss, Cornell University
Luis Jose Fuentes Melero, University of Mucia, Spain
* James Pomerantz, Rice University
Gordon Shulman, Washington University
Mary Lou Smith, University of Toronto
Pio Tudela, University of Granada
Sharon Wallsten, University of Maryland
Thomas Wallsten, University of Maryland
* The FABBS Foundation would like to thank Dr. Raymond Klein and Dr. James Pomerantz for nominating Dr. Posner for this honor and for leading the effort to spread the word about his nomination.