Avniel Singh Ghuman, PhD

Assistant Professor
Director, MEG Research

Avniel Singh Ghuman




Avniel Singh Ghuman, PhD, joined the Department of Neurological Surgery in September of 2011.

Dr. Ghuman received his undergraduate education in math and physics at The Johns Hopkins University. He completed his doctoral education in biophysics at Harvard University. He completed his postdoctoral training at the National Institute of Mental Health prior to joining the faculty at the University of Pittsburgh.

As director of MEG (Magnetoencephalography) Research, one of Dr. Ghuman’s primary roles is to facilitate, develop, and advance clinical and basic neuroscience research using MEG. To this end, he is helping to develop new research applications for MEG in collaboration with researchers throughout the community. MEG is the most powerful functional neuroimaging technique for noninvasively recording magnetic fields generated by electrophysiological brain activity, providing millisecond temporal resolution and adequate spatial resolution of neural events.

Dr. Ghuman’s research focuses on how our brain turns what falls upon our eyes into the rich meaningful experience that we perceive in the world around us. Specifically, his lab studies the neural basis of the visual perception of objects, faces, words, and social and affective visual images. His lab examines the spatiotemporal dynamics of how neural activity reflects the stages of information processing and how information flow through brain networks responsible for visual perception.

To accomplish these research goals Dr. Ghuman’s lab records electrophysiological brain activity from humans using both invasive (intracranial EEG; iEEG — in collaboration with R. Mark Richardson, MD, PhD) and non-invasive (magnetoencephalography; MEG) measures. In conjunction with these millisecond scale recordings they use multivariate machine learning methods, network analysis, and advanced signal processing techniques to assess the information processing dynamics reflected in brain activity. Additionally, his lab uses direct neural stimulation to examine how disrupting and modulating brain activity alters visual perception. This combination of modalities and analysis techniques allow Dr. Ghuman to ask fine-grained questions about neural information processing and information flow at both the scale of local brain regions and broadly distributed networks.

More information on Dr. Ghuman's research can be found on the Laboratory of Cognitive Neurodynamics webpage.

Specialized Areas of Interest

The dynamics of brain interactions; visual cognition; magnetoencephalography (MEG), intracranial EEG (iEEG); face recognition; reading; social and affective perception.

Professional Organization Membership

Society for Neuroscience
Cognitive Neuroscience Society
Organization for Human Brain Mapping
Vision Sciences Society

Education & Training

BA, Math and Physics, The Johns Hopkins University, 1998
PhD, Biophysics, Harvard University, 2007

Honors & Awards

NARSAD Young Investigator Award
National Institute of Mental Health Biobehavioral Research Award for Innovative New Scientists

Selected Publications

Morett LM, O’Hearn K, Luna B, Ghuman AS. Altered Gesture and Speech Production in Autism Spectrum Disorders Detract from In-Person Communication Quality. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 46(3):998-1012, 2016.

Alhourani A, McDowell MM, Randazzo M, Wozny T, Kondylis E, Lipski W, Beck S, Karp JF, Ghuman AS, Richardson RM. Network Effects of Deep Brain Stimulation. Journal of Neurophysiology 114(4):2105-2117, 2015.

Ghuman AS, Brunet NM, Li Y, Konecky RO, Pyles JA, Walls SA, Destefino V, Wang W, Richardson, R.M. (2014). Dynamic encoding of face information in the human fusiform gyrus. Nature Communications 5:5672, 2014.

Hwang K, Ghuman AS, Manoach DS, Jones S, Luna B. Cortical Neurodynamics of Inhibitory Control. Journal of Neuroscience 34(29):9551-9561, 2013.

Ghuman AS, McDaniel JR, Martin A. A Wavelet-Based Method for Measuring the Oscillatory Dynamics of Resting-State Functional Connectivity in MEG. NeuroImage 56(1):69-77, 2011.

Kverega K, Ghuman AS, Kassam KS, Aminoff EM, Hämäläinen MS, Chaumon M, Bar M. Neural Synchronization in the Contextual Association Network. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 108(8):3389-3394, 2011.

Ghuman AS, McDaniel JR, Martin A. Face Adaptation Without A Face. Current Biology 20(1):32-36, 2010.

Ghuman AS, Bar M, Dobbins I, Schnyer D. The Effects of Priming on Frontal-Temporal Communication. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 105(24):8405-8409, 2008.

A complete list of Dr. Ghuman's publications can be reviewed through the National Library of Medicine's publication database.

Research Activities

Dr. Ghuman current studies are exploring the neural basis of high level visual processing to help answer the question of how our brain turns what falls upon our eyes into meaning. In the past year, his work has helped address a debate that has been raging for over 150 years regarding the neural basis of reading. Specifically, some of the most important neuroscientists and neurologists of the 19th century, including Jules Dejerine, Jean-Martin Charcot, and Carl Wernicke, debated about whether or not the brain contained a visual center for words. This debate has persisted until today, recently centering around a part of the brain called the left mid-fusiform gyrus, that some have labeled the “visual word form area.” Using a set of methods that a Laurent Cohen called a methodological “tour de force” in his commentary on the work in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, work from Dr. Ghuman’s lab demonstrated some of the strongest evidence to date that this area is in fact the visual center for words. As part of this study, Dr. Ghuman’s team was able to show that what word a person is reading at a particular moment can be decoded from the activity in this area and that disrupting its activity causes a profound disturbance in a person’s ability to read.

In other research, Dr. Ghuman’s team discovered that stimulation to the left ventromedial temporal cortex caused associative visual phenomena, reminiscent of complex visual hallucinations. This area has been linked to visual hallucinations in a host of disorders, including Parkinson’s disease, stroke, and epilepsy. This discovery provides a potential link between disruptions in the associative visual processing this area is responsible for and visual hallucinations.

Media Appearances

Ability to Recognize Faces Grows With Age, Study Finds
January 5, 2017
The Wall Street Journal

Epilepsy Research Leads To New Insights Into How Our Brains Read
August 16, 2016
WESA Radio Pittsburgh Tech Report

Study shows how words are represented in the brain
July 20, 2016

Decoding Reading in the Brain
July 19, 2016
Cognitive Neuroscience Society

“Reading” The Reading Mind
July 8, 2016