Joshua Jacobs


351 Engineering Terrace
Mail Code: 8904

Tel(212) 854-4460
Fax(212) 854-8725

Joshua Jacobs and his laboratory examine the neural basis of human spatial navigation and spatial memory. This work is performed by conducting direct brain recordings from epilepsy patients that have electrodes implanted surgically in deep brain structures. Via these recordings, he and his team identify neural patterns that reveal how the brain represents memory for spatial locations and maps. 

Research Interests

Human memory, direct brain recordings, stimulation, electrophysiology, neuronal oscillations.

Understanding this system is important not only for explaining how humans navigate, but also because it will elucidate how the brain supports various types of memory processes and suggest treatments for disorders such as Alzheimer’s Disease. The lab performs this work in close collaboration with neurosurgeons and neurologists at several hospitals, including Columbia University Medical Center, University of Pennsylvania, Thomas Jefferson University, Emory University, and University of Texas.

There are several broader goals of this work. First, the team is interested in comparing the neural representation of space between humans and animals to identify common and distinctive aspects of spatial coding between species. Second, they test whether the neural coding of location during movement is similar to the brain patterns used to encode memories.  Third, they engage in translational research to develop brain stimulation protocols for enhancing spatial memory to help people who experience cognitive impairment due to aging or disease. 

Jacobs received Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in computer science in 2001 and 2002. In 2008, he received his PhD in neuroscience from the University of Pennsylvania. 


  • Postdoctoral researcher, University of Pennsylvania, 2009-2010 


  • Assistant professor of biomedical engineering, Columbia University, 2015 –
  • Member of Columbia University Doctoral Program in Neurobiology and Behavior
  • Member of Columbia University Translational Neuroscience Initiative (CTNI)
  • Member of Columbia University Data Science Institute 

  • Assistant professor, School of Biomedical Engineering and Department of Psychology, Drexel University, 2010-2014 


  • Society for Neuroscience


  • NIH grants: R01-MH104606 (PI: Jacobs) and R01-MH061975 (subcontract from UPenn).
  • DARPA: DARPA RAM program (Cooperative agreement N66001-14-2-4032).


  • Winegrad award for best Ph.D. dissertation in Neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania, 2008


  • Jacobs, J., Miller, J., Lee, S. A., Coffey, T., Watrous, A. J., Sperling, M. R., Sharan, A., Worrell, G., Berry, B., Lega, B., Jobst, B., Davis, K. Gross, R. E., Sheth, S. A., Ezzyat, Y., Das, S. R., Stein, J., Gorniak, R., Kahana, M. J., and Rizzuto, D. S. (2016). Direct electrical stimulation of human entorhinal cortex impairs memory. Neuron. 92, 5, 983–990. 

  • Zhang, H. & Jacobs, J. (2015). Travelling theta waves in the human hippocampus. Journal of Neuroscience, 35, 
36, 12477–12487. 

  • Miller, J., Fried, I.F., Suthana, N., Jacobs, J. (2015). Repeating spatial activations in human entorhinal cortex. 
Current Biology, 25, 8, 1080-1085. 

  • Jacobs, J., Weidemann, C., Burke, J., Miller, J., Wei, X., Solway, A., Sperling, M., Sharan, A., Fried, I., Kahana, M. (2013). Direct recordings of grid cells in human spatial navigation. Nature Neuroscience. 16(9), 1188–1190.