• Assistant Professor of Neuroscience
  • Science Center A244
  • 440-775-8823
  • Fall 2016
    Monday 4:00-5:30 p.m., Friday 2:00-3:30 p.m., or by appointment


  • ScB Math / AB Philosophy, Brown University, 1993
  • PhD Computer Science & Engineering, University of Michigan, 2004
  • Postdoctoral research in Psychology/Neuroscience, Princeton University, 2004-2011


The primary focus of my research in cognitive neuroscience is on the role of reward and cost monitoring in human and animal decision-making and interval timing. I attempt to model basic decision-making and timing circuits in the brain, using mathematical models that are as simple as possible, but that achieve enough functionality to account for critical features of both behavioral and physiological data. These models typically incorporate a layer of neural control mechanisms for optimizing the performance of the underlying decision-making circuits: that is, they help these circuits maximize rewards during simulated task performance. The resulting models generate precise, quantitative hypotheses about choices, response times and brain activity that I test with experiments in human behavior, electroencephalography (EEG) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

I also focus theoretically on the composition of these basic circuits into larger models capable of more complex behavior. Such complex behavior is typically modeled with rule-based systems in the artificial intelligence tradition of computer science. My mathematical and computational modeling work in this area is intended to provide a theoretical link between different levels of description in psychology and neuroscience. At the neural level of description, individual neurons and neural populations are the objects of study by physiological methods, and dynamical systems and stochastic processes are theoretical tools of choice. At the psychological level of description, entities such as percepts, goals and actions are the objects of behavioral investigation, and symbolic cognitive architectures known as "production systems" are leading theoretical constructs. In order to unify these different approaches, I seek to explain how the psychological description level emerges from the neural level by building neural networks that emulate production systems.

I live in Oberlin with my wife Maureen and my son Ben.


NSCI 201: The Brain: An Introduction to Neuroscience

NSCI 211: Neuroscience Laboratory

NSCI 360: Introduction to Cognitive Neuroscience

NSCI 361: Cognitive Neuroscience Research Methods

Selected Publications

Simen, P. (2012). Evidence accumulator or decision threshold - which cortical mechanism are we observing? Frontiers in Cognitive Science, 3: 183. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00183

Simen, P., Balci, F., deSouza, L., Cohen, J.D. and Holmes, P. (2011). A model of interval timing by neural integration. Journal of Neuroscience, 31, 9238-9253.

Simen, P., Contreras, D., Buck, C., Hu, P., Holmes, P. and Cohen, J.D. (2009). Reward-rate optimization in two-alternative decision making: Empirical tests of theoretical predictions. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception & Performance, 35, 1865-1897.

Simen, P. and Cohen, J.D. (2009). Explicit melioration by a neural diffusion model. Brain Research, 1299, 95-117.


  • Patrick Simen Publishes

    November 17, 2015

    Assistant Professor of Neuroscience Patrick Simen’s article “Scale (In)Variance in a Unified Diffusion Model of Decision Making and Timing” was published in Psychological Review. The article was written with student coauthors Ksenia Vlasov '13 and Samantha Papadakis '15.

    The article derives behavioral predictions from a simplified mathematical model of neural activity, and it describes the results of human behavioral experiments carried out by students at Oberlin to test these predictions. Most of the predictions held up, suggesting that timing and perceptual decision making depend on a common process in which neural activity builds up over time at a constant rate.

  • Patrick Simen Gives Talks in U.K. and Turkey

    February 11, 2015

    Patrick Simen, assistant professor of neuroscience, recently gave a series of talks in the U.K. and Turkey regarding a mathematical model of neural processing in perceptual decision making and interval timing. In the U.K., Simen spoke at the University of Warwick, the University of Oxford, and the Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit of University College London. In Turkey, Simen spoke at Koç University in Istanbul.

    Simen's travel was supported by a Powers Travel Grant, the funding from which also gave him an opportunity to spend time with and see the research facilities of his collaborators at the aforementioned institutions.


24 Hours of Winter Term

February 13, 2017
Follow along a day in the life of students, faculty, and staff during winter term.