Cohen, Avis H.

Avis Cohen
Professor Emerita
Institute for Systems Research
Department of Biology
2230 Biology/Psychology Bldg., University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742
301-405-0069
301-314-9920
Research Interests 
My research focuses on systems: neural and mechanical. I typically use computational and integrational methods to understand the relationship between the parts of the system. My neural systems research is a collaborative effort to put the lamprey back together again - that is, to use mathematical, physiological, behavioral, and biomechanical studies to understand how neural output is integrated with the properties and forces of the muscle, body and water to generate realistic swimming movement. The methods have recently expanded to include visualization of the internal structures of the animal using the Advanced Photon Source at the Argonne National Laboratory.
Background Info 

Avis Cohen received her Ph.D. from Cornell University in 1977 after bearing two sons. She held post-doctoral positions at the Carolinska Institute in Sweden, and Washington University in St. Louis before returning to Cornell University where she had her own laboratory studying the organization of the lamprey spinal cord. At Cornell she began a collaboration with mathematicians which continues today. It was in this collaboration that she and her colleagues developed groundbreaking theoretical treatments of systems of coupled non-linear oscillators. At Cornell she also began exploring the process of spinal cord regeneration in lampreys.

Dr. Cohen joined the University of Maryland, Department of Biology (then Zoology) in 1990. Over the next eight years she established and directed the Program in Neuroscience and Cognitive Science, an interdisciplinary graduate program that combines training in cognitive and computational methods with traditional neuroscience, making this one of the few such programs in the country. During these years, Dr. Cohen also began working with the Telluride Workshop in Neuromorphic Engineering. She is presently one of the directors and co-PI on the NSF grant funding this innovative program. She is also the PI, with Dr. Shihab Shamma the co-PI, on a new proposal to set up a virtual institute, the Institute for Neuromorphic Engineering, or INE, to support the work of the group year round.

Presently, Dr. Cohen is working in collaboration with Dr. Etienne-Cummings, Johns Hopkins University, and Dr. Anthony Lewis, president of Iguana Robotics, on a robot controller for legged robots that they hope to parlay into a spinal cord prosthetic device for spinal cord injury patients. This work is a continuation of her experimental studies of spinal control locomotion in lampreys with and without spinal cord injuries. This work has mainly been supported by NIH and the Christopher Reeve Foundation, and is published in mainstream neuroscience research journals.

Related News 

John Baras elected AAAS Fellow
Baras recognized for accomplishments in multiple fields that mark his career.December 1, 2014

Robotics @ Maryland Takes Fourth Place in International RoboSub Competition
Student-run robotics team builds autonomous underwater vehicle for competition.August 14, 2013

Avis Cohen to give Distinguished Scholar-Teacher lecture
Event is Nov. 30, 4 pm, 1115 CSIC.November 17, 2011

Telluride newspaper writes about Neuromorphic Cognition Engineering Workshop
ISR faculty, staff, students key to the workshop's planning and organization.July 18, 2011

Avis Cohen is co-PI on NSF neuromechanics and dynamics of locomotion grant
Research will coordinate neural and mechanical studies on lamprey locomotion.April 19, 2011

Cohen's computer modeling of swimming fish could lead to new robots and prosthetics
Article to be published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.October 20, 2010

CNN airs special program on Cohen, Etienne-Cummings research
Work on biologically inspired computer chip appeared on Earth's Frontiers.June 25, 2010

Area of Expertise