Stephen L. Macknik, PhD

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Stephen L. Macknik, PhD


Stephen Macknik, PhD
Principal Investigator
Laboratory of Behavioral Neurophysiology

The Macknik laboratory is dedicated to studying the neural underpinnings of visual and sensory awareness and perception. A number of neurobiological techniques are employed so as to study the neural correlates of sensory experience, such as psychophysics (quantified measurements of behavior), electrophysiology of neuronal activity, and brain imaging such as functional magnetic resonance imaging and macroscopic as well as microscopic optical imaging. A special interest in our laboratory is the study of microscopic blood flow driven by perception and awareness and occurring in neurological disease.

Dr. Stephen Macknik received his PhD at Harvard University in the laboratory of Professor Margaret Livingstone. He went on to complete a postdoctoral fellowship with Nobel-laureate Professor David Hubel at Harvard Medical School, and also with Professor Zach Mainen at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Dr. Macknik led his first laboratory at University College London, and has since moved on to lead the Behavioral Neurophysiology laboratory at Barrow Neurological Institute.

Dr. Macknik's research and scientific outreach activities have been featured in the New York Times, Time Magazine, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, NPR, BBC, PRI, ABC News, Fox News, MSNBC, Nova: Science Now, the Times (London), and Der Spiegel, among hundreds of other media outlets. He is board member of Scientific American, where he has published several feature articles and for which he writes a column titled Illusions, and a free online blog called Illusion Chasers. His other publication credits include contributions to Nature, Nature Neuroscience, Neuron, Nature Reviews Neuroscience, and Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.


Education, Training and Previous Positions

  • 2011-present: Adjunct Professor, School of Biological and Health Science Engineering, Arizona State University
  • 2010-present: Adjunct Professor, School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University
  • 2008-present: Associate Professor and Director, Behavioral Neurophysiology Laboratory, Barrow Neurological Institute
  • 2007-2010: Clinical Professor, Program in Neuroscience, Arizona State University
  • 2005-2010: Adjunct Professor, Department of Psychology, Arizona State University
  • 2004-2008: Assistant Staff Scientist, Barrow Neurological Institute
  • 2001-2003: Lecturer in Visual Science, Institute of Ophthalmology, University College London
  • 2000-2001: Swartz Initiative in Computational Neuroscience Fellow, Mainen Lab, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
  • 1996-2001: Research Fellow in Neurobiology, Hubel Lab, Harvard Medical School
  • 1993: Visiting Fellow, Desimone Laboratory, NIH
  • 1996: PhD, Harvard University
  • 1991: Research Associate, Vestibular Research Facility, NASA Ames Research Center
  • 1991: BA, University of California - Santa Cruz (UCSC), Psychobiology, Biology, and Psychology


Selected Professional Memberships and Appointments

  • Board of Advisors and Columnist, Scientific American Mind
  • Board Member and Executive Treasurer, Neural Correlate Society
  • Editorial Board, John Benjamins Publishing
  • Scientific Consultant, National Geographic Kids Magazine
  • Society for Neuroscience
  • Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness
  • New York Academy of Sciences
  • American Epilepsy Society
  • Vision Sciences Society
  • Reviewer: Behavior and Brain Sciences, Current Biology, Journal of Biological Physics, Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, Journal of Eye Movement Research, Journal of Neuroscience, Journal of Vision, Nature, Neural Computation, Oxford Encyclopedia of Consciousness, Peer J, Perception, Perception & Psychophysics, PlosONE, Psychological Science, Psychology Review, Science, Spatial Vision, Wellcome Trust grant reviewer


Selected Honors and Awards

  • 2013: Scientific American Special Issue
  • 2013: Research Initiative Award, American Epilepsy Society
  • 2012: EyeTrack Award for the most outstanding paper of 2011 in the fields of oculomotor research that uses eye tracking technology (Tobii Technologies)
  • 2011: Columnist, Scientific American Mind
  • 2010: Scientific American Special Issue
  • 2001-2003: Medical Research Council (UK), International Appointment Award
  • 1999-2001: National Eye Institutes NRSA Fellow
  • 1999-2001: Swartz Initiative in Computational Neuroscience Fellowship
  • 1996-1998: National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (USA) Fellow
  • 1993, 1994: Mahoney Fellowship, Harvard University
  • 1997-1999: Sackler Scholar in Psychobiology, Harvard University
  • 1991: Neural Systems and Behavior Course Fellowship, Marine Biological Laboratories
  • 1991: Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology Fellowship
  • 1991: Crown College Community Service Award, UCSC
  • 1990-1991: Santa Cruz Medical Society Scholarship
  • 1990-1991: UCSC Alumni Scholarship
  • 1990-1991: Dominican Hospital Auxiliary Scholarship
  • 1989: University of California President's Undergraduate Fellowship
  • 1989: UCSC Council of Provosts Research Grant


Selected Publications

  1. Rieiro H, Martinez-Conde S, Macknik SL. Perceptual elements in Penn & Teller's "Cups and Balls" magic trick. PeerJ. 2013;1:e19.

  2. Martinez-Conde S, Otero-Millan J, Macknik SL. The impact of microsaccades on vision: towards a unified theory of saccadic function. Nat Rev Neurosci. Feb 2013;14(2):83-96.

  3. Rieiro H, Martinez-Conde S, Danielson AP, Pardo-Vazquez JL, Srivastava N, Macknik SL. Optimizing the temporal dynamics of light to human perception. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Nov 27 2012;109(48):19828-19833.

  4. Martinez-Conde S, Macknik SL. Magic and the brain. Sci Am. Dec 2008;299(6):72-79.

  5. Macknik SL, King M, Randi J, et al. Attention and awareness in stage magic: turning tricks into research. Nat Rev Neurosci. Nov 2008;9(11):871-879.

  6. Chen Y, Martinez-Conde S, Macknik SL, Bereshpolova Y, Swadlow HA, Alonso JM. Task difficulty modulates the activity of specific neuronal populations in primary visual cortex. Nat Neurosci. Aug 2008;11(8):974-982.

  7. Martinez-Conde S, Macknik SL. Windows on the mind. Sci Am. Aug 2007;297(2):56-63.

  8. Tse PU, Martinez-Conde S, Schlegel AA, Macknik SL. Visibility, visual awareness, and visual masking of simple unattended targets are confined to areas in the occipital cortex beyond human V1/V2. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Nov 22 2005;102(47):17178-17183.

  9. Martinez-Conde S, Macknik SL, Hubel DH. Microsaccadic eye movements and firing of single cells in the striate cortex of macaque monkeys. Nat Neurosci. Mar 2000;3(3):251-258.

  10. Macknik SL, Livingstone MS. Neuronal correlates of visibility and invisibility in the primate visual system. Nat Neurosci. Jun 1998;1(2):144-149.
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