Cortical Systems Laboratory

The Cortical Systems Lab, under the direction of Jorge A. González-Martínez, MD, PhD, is a neuroscience laboratory studying brain electrophysiology, cognition and language in patients undergoing epilepsy and movement disorder surgery. The overreaching goal of our work is to better understand the neurobiology of cortical-subcortical interactions in the normal and pathological human brain. The lab aims to develop new methods for brain mapping and therapeutic options for patients with medically refractory epilepsy and movement disorders, including neuromodulatory and resective procedures. The laboratory is highly integrated with the University of Pittsburgh Epilepsy Center, the University of PIttsburgh Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and the Carnegie Mellon University Department of Biomedical Engineering.   

The laboratory clinical arm is the Epilepsy Monitoring Unit (EMU), part of the University of Pittsburgh Epilepsy Center. The epilepsy center at the University of Pittsburgh is one of the leading epilepsy surgery programs in the world, with more than 5,000 adult patient-visit annually. The program offers the opportunity for comprehensive evaluation in a self-contained, eight-bed, adult epilepsy monitoring unit (EMU). The EMU features the latest technology including state-of-the-art, all digital video EEG equipment in private rooms. Operating around the clock, seven days a week, the unit is staffed by a dedicated team of nurses and EEG technologists specializing in epilepsy and overseen by staff epileptologists. The unit is part of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, a multi-disciplinary group of neurosurgeons, neurologists neuroradiologist, neuropsychologist, nurses, residents, and fellows who coordinate the care and research related topics for patients with medically refractory epilepsy. Patient Management Conference Meetings (PMCs) are performed weekly, on Mondays, where all aspects of patient care are discussed in an academic and teaching environment. Approximately 50 to 60 invasive monitoring procedures (SEEG) are performed per year in our center.


The Cortical Systems Laboratory is located in Scaife Hall at the University of Pittsburgh, adjacent to UPMC Presbyterian. The lab is located three floors away from the Epilepsy Monitoring Unit, located on the 8th floor of UPMC Presbyterian. 

Current Projects

Establishing Novel Properties of Dynamic Systems Models to Identify Epileptogenic Networks in Patients with Drug Resistant Epilepsy
The objectives of the proposed computational approaches and experiments are to (i) develop and validate a new EEG marker based on dynamical systems modeling, and (ii) develop a method to guide periodic cortical stimulation to elicit seizures for EZ localization which, if successful, have the potential to significantly reduce invasive monitoring times, avoiding further risks to patients and reducing costs. 

Influence of Task Complexity and Sensory Feedback on Cortical Control of Grasp Force 
The overall goal of the proposal is to uncover motor cortical dynamics underlying grasp control by performing bidirectional clinical trial in human subjects implanted with Utah array. 

The Role of Basal Ganglia in Language and Motor Control 
The goal of this proposal is to explore the role of subcortical nodes in the basal ganglia-thalamocortical network and the cortex in coding various aspects of motor control, through electrophysiological study of networks targeted during deep brain stimulation surgery. 

Neuromodulation of Motor Cortical Circuits via Thalamic Deep Brain Stimulation to Improve Face and Speech Motor Functions 
Researchers propose to refine the mapping of the motor thalamus to identify the optimal target of stimulation and optimize the stimulation parameters to improve face and speech motor functions. 


Elvira Pirondini, PhD
Marco Capogrosso, PhD
Frank Yeh, PhD
Brad Mahon, PhD
John Gale, PhD
Patrick Chauvel, MD
Avniel Ghuman, PhD
Leila Wehbe, PhD
Julie Fiez, PhD