Stephen Lisberger is a systems neuroscientist recognized for his research on how the brain learns simple motor skills and how it uses visual inputs to guide movement. Lisberger was born in New York City and grew up in Stamford, Connecticut and Ithaca, New York. He received an A.B. in Mathematics from Cornell University (1971) and a Ph.D. in Physiology (1976) at the University of Washington (Seattle), followed by postdoctoral work at the National Institutes of Health. He took a faculty job in the Department of Physiology at the University of California, San Francisco in 1981 and moved in 2012 to become the George Barth Geller Professor of Neurobiology and the Chair of the Department of Neurobiology at Duke University. He was an HHMI investigator from 1997 to 2015. Lisberger served as the Treasurer of the Society for Neuroscience, as a Section Editor and Senior Editor for the Journal of Neuroscience, and as Chief Editor of Neuroscience, the flagship journal of the International Brain Research Organization. He won the Young Investigator Prize and the Bernice Grafstein Prize from the Society for Neuroscience. Lisberger is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences.

Research Interests

Stephen Lisberger's laboratory is interested in general principles of how the brain works and learns, while it is actually working and learning. He has leveraged a wide-ranging toolkit, including behavioral analysis, neural recordings, and theory and computation. Lisberger's laboratory has delivered a complete and coherent story of how plasticity in the cerebellum leads to behavioral learning. They provided two complete accounts for two different movements: the vestibulo-ocular reflex and smooth pursuit eye movements, showing that primary learning is in the cerebellar cortex guided by the unique inputs from climbing fibers, while consolidation occurs in the cerebellar nucleus, guided by the output from the cerebellar cortex. They continue to ask how the full cerebellar micro-circuit transforms its inputs into outputs to learn and guide movement. They also are interested in how a sensory-motor behavior works, from cortical sensory neurons all the way to motoneurons. The lab exploits a relatively simple form of movement, namely eye movement in the complex brain of macaque monkeys to investigate how sensory inputs are converted into reliable movements, with plausible general implications for all sensory-motor systems.

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Primary Section

Section 28: Systems Neuroscience