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Neuroscience PhD at Wake Forest University at Wake Forest University

Wake Forest University Graduate School » Neuroscience PhD at Wake Forest University

Christos Constantinidis

Christos Constantinidis

Christos Constantinidis, Ph.D.

Professor of Neurobiology & Anatomy
Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University
  Research in my laboratory aims to understand how neuronal activity in the cerebral cortex gives rise to cognitive functions. Experiments in recent years have focused on the posterior parietal and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, two brain areas implicated in visual perception, attention, and working memory. Simultaneous neuronal recordings from multiple micro-electrodes during performance of cognitive tasks are addressing how these areas are functionally organized and how experience and learning modifies the properties of their neurons. Neuronal activity in these areas is also monitored under at different stages of development, particularly focusing on the neural substrates of cognitive maturation between the stages of adolescence and adulthood. Computational and modeling approaches are then employed to understand the neural mechanisms that mediate complex cognitive functions such as the selective representation of an attended stimulus or its maintenance in memory. For a general overview of methods and questions our lab is working on, see this recent Review Article: Role of Prefrontal Persistent Activity in Working Memory.  


Research in the laboratory investigates the neurophysiology of cognitive functions. Ongoing projects examine the role of dorsolateral prefrontal and posterior parietal cortex in processes such as working memory, learning, and selective attention.

Effects of Learning Neurophysiological experiments in the laboratory are addressing how learning to perform a cognitive task affects the organization of the cerebral cortex and functional properties of individual neurons. Recordings from the prefrontal cortex of monkeys before and after training to perform a working memory task indicate that two prefrontal subdivisions, the dorsal and ventral prefrontal cortex are innately organized to represent different types of information and are activated differently by training to perform a task. Experiments monitor the spiking activity of multiple neurons, as well as local-field-potentials are allowing us to understand how experience alters the organization of the cortical networks. 

Cortical Circuit Analysis Simultaneous cortical recordings from arrays of microelectrodes allow us to monitor the activity of multiple neurons at a time and to infer their patterns of connectivity using analytical methods such as cross-correlation and trial-to-trial (noise) correlation. Neuronal cell types (putative pyramidal neurons and interneurons) can be resolved based on the action potential waveform and discharge rate characteristics of neurons recorded. The patterns of effective connectivity between neurons and the flow of information between them can then be determined.

Computational Analysis and Modeling Results of our neurophysiological experiments are used for computational analysis and modeling. Computer simulations can investigate the patterns of interactions between neurons and provide insight on the functions of the cortical circuits.

Specialization of Higher Cortical Areas Virtually all cognitive functions generate activation of a large network of cortical areas. The unique roles and cooperative interactions of these areas have only recently begun to be investigated. We are currently focusing on the posterior parietal and prefrontal cortex, two interconnected brain regions, which are involved in the processing of visual, spatial information.

Experiments seek to understand how a) the physiological properties of neurons in the two areas differ during execution of a variety of cognitive tasks that involve visual attention and working memory; b) what underlying circuit specializations mediate the functional specificity of the two areas; c) what the functional implications of such circuit differences are.



Recent Publications

  • D. Murray, A. Bernacchia, N. A Roy, C. Constantinidis, R. Romo, X.-J.Wang. Stable population coding for working memory coexists with heterogeneous neural dynamics in prefrontal cortex. PNAS (2017)114(2):394-399.
  • Zhou , Constantinidis C. Fixation target representation in prefrontal cortex during the anti-saccade task. J Neurophysiol. (2017) Epub ahead of press
  • Zhou, D. Zhu, X.-L. Qi, S. Li, S. G. King, E. Salinas, T. R. Stanford, C. Constantinidis. Neural Correlates of Working Memory Development in Adolescence. Nature Communications (2016) 7:13423.
  • R. Riley and C. Constantinidis. Functional specialization of areas along the anterior-posterior axis of the primate prefrontal cortex. Cerebral Cortex (2016). Epub ahead of print
  • Constantinidis C. and Klingberg T. The neuroscience of working memory capacity and training. Nature Reviews Neuroscience (2016) 17(7):438-49.
  • Kobak, W. Brendel, C. Constantinidis, C. E.Feierstein, A. Kepecs, Z. F. Mainen, R. Romo, X-L Qi, N. Uchida, and C. K. Machens. Demixed principal component analysis of neural population data. eLife (2016) 10.7554/eLife.10989
  • Zhou, D. Zhu, S. G. King, C. J. Lees, A. J. Bennett, E. Salinas, T. R. Stanford, C. Constantinidis. Behavioral response inhibition and maturation of goal representation in prefrontal cortex after puberty. PNAS (2016). 113(12):3353-8.
  • Zhou, X-L Qi, C. Constantinidis. Distinct roles of the prefrontal and posterior parietal cortices in response inhibition. Cell Reports (2016) 14:1-9.
  • C. Constantinidis Cross-modal representation of parametric information in working memory. Neuron (2016). 89 (1):3-5.

Other Selected Publications

  • K. Wimmer, D. Q. Nykamp, C. Constantinidis, A. Compte. Bump attractor dynamics in prefrontal cortex can explain behavioral precision in spatial working memory. Nature Neuroscience (2014) 17(3):431-9. [Abstract]
  • X. Zhou, D. Zhu, F. Katsuki, X.L. Qi, C. J. Lees, A. J. Bennett, E. Salinas, T. R. Stanford, C. Constantinidis. Age-dependent changes in prefrontal intrinsic connectivity. PNAS (2014) 111(10):3853-3858.  [Abstract]
  • F. Katsuki, and C. Constantinidis. Early involvement of prefrontal cortex in visual bottom-up attention. Nature Neuroscience (2012) 15:1060-1066.  [Abstract]
  • E. M. Meyers, X. L. Qi, and C. Constantinidis. Incorporation of new information into prefrontal cortical activity after learning working memory tasks. PNAS (2012) 109:4651-4656. [Abstract]
  • X. J. Wang , J. Tegner, C. Constantinidis, P. S. Goldman-Rakic. Division of labor among distinct inhibitory neurons in a cortical microcircuit of working memory. PNAS (2004), 101: 1368-1373. [Abstract]
  • C. Constantinidis, G. V. Williams and P. S. Goldman-Rakic. A role for inhibition in shaping the temporal flow of information in prefrontal cortex. Nature Neuroscience (2002), 5:175-180. [Abstract]
  • C. Constantinidis, M. N. Franowicz and P. S. Goldman-Rakic. The sensory nature of mnemonic representation in the primate prefrontal cortex. Nature Neuroscience (2001), 4:311-316 [Abstract]


  • F. Katsuki and C. Constantinidis. Bottom-up and top-down attention: different processes and overlapping neural systems. The Neuroscientist (2014) 20(5):509-521 [Abstract]
  • X. L. Qi and C. Constantinidis. Neural changes after training to perform cognitive tasks. Behavioural Brain Research (2013) 241:235-243. [Abstract]
  • F. Katsuki, and C. Constantinidis. Unique and shared roles of the posterior parietal and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in cognitive functions. Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience (2012) 6:17. [Article].
  • J.B. Rawley, C. Constantinidis. Neural correlates of learning and working memory in the primate posterior parietal cortex. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory (2009)  [Abstract]
  • C. Constantinidis. Posterior parietal mechanisms of visual attention. Rev. Neurosci. (2006), 17:415-427. [Abstract]
  • C. Constantinidis and X. J. Wang. A Neural Circuit Basis for Spatial Working Memory. Neuroscientist (2004), 10:553-565. [Abstract]
  • C. Constantinidis and E. Procyk. The primate working memory networks. Cognitive Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience (2004) 4:444-465. [Article]

Methods Articles

  • T. Meyer and C. Constantinidis. A software solution for the control of visual behavioral experimentation. J. Neuroscience Methods (2005), 142:27-34. [Abstract]

Full Publication List [Pubmed]



Current Lab Members

Xuelian Qi, PhD - Instructor Hua Tang, PhD - Postdoctoral Fellow Sihai Li - PhD Student Aquil Jones - Master's Student
Austin Lodish - Tech II Allie Persily - Undergraduate Student Thomas Kellogg - Undergraduate Student Macrae Robertson - Undergraduate Student


Lab News

  • 10/2017: Mitch accepted a postdoctoral position at Vanderbilt.
  • 5/2017: Mitch wins the Outstanding PhD Thesis Award!
  • 5/2017: Sihai graduates from the MS program and transitions to PhD!
  • 3/2016: Christos is co-hosting a symposium at the SfN conference in San Diego
  • 9/2015: Xin moved to the Stanford Computer Science department.
  • 9/2014: Christos was interviewed by a Greek newspaper (Kathimerini).
  • 8/2014: Mitch was awarded an F31 Predoctoral NRSA Fellowship from the NIH!
  • 8/2014: Xin defended successfully her Ph.D. dissertation. Congratulations Dr. Zhou!
  • 7/2014: Christos elected Chairman of the Western North Carolina Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience.
  • 6/2014: Xin was nominated for a travel award to the 2014 SfN conference.
  • 6/2014: Fumi accepted a postdoctoral position at Harvard Medical School.
  • 4/2014: Xin won the Sulkin Fellowship for Outstanding Dissertation!
  • 3/2014: Christos interviewed by CBS affiliate WSJS.
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  • 5/2013: Christos was awarded the Mid-Career Investigator in Basic Sciences Award from the Wake Forest School of Medicine!
  • Xin was awarded the Fine Science Tools travel award for the 2012 Society for Neuroscience meeting!
  • Fumi defended successfully her Ph.D. dissertation! Congratulations Dr. Katsuki!

 Former Lab Members

  • Xin Zhou, PhD (Neurobiology & Anatomy)
    • Recepient of Sulkin Fellowship for Outstanding Thesis
    • Present Position: Stanford University
  • Fumi Katsuki, PhD (Neurobiology & Anatomy)
    • Winner of the Elsevier/Vision Research Award of the Vision Sciences Society
    • Present Position: Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard Medical School
  • Travis Meyer, PhD (Neuroscience)
    • Recepient of Sulkin Fellowship for Outstanding Thesis
    • Present Position: Postdoctoral Fellow, Center for Neural Basis of Cognition, Univ. of Pittsburgh
  • Justin Rawley, PhD (Neuroscience)
    • Present Position: NCI postdoctoral fellow, Radiation Oncology, Wake Forest School of Medicine
  • Kristy Douglas, MS (Psychology)
    • Present Position: University of Alabama, Clinical Psychology PhD Program
  • Frederik Joelving, MS (Biology)
  • Steven Heffner, MD
    • Present Position: Resident, North Carolina Baptist Hospital
  • Kelvin Chan, MD
    • NRSA Predoctoral Fellow
    • Present Position: Resident, Internal Medicine, University of South California
  • Adam Leigh, MD
    • NRSA Predoctoral Fellow
  • Scott Dellorso, MD
    • NRSA Predoctoral Fellow
    • Present Position: Resident, Neurology, Georgetown Medical School