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University of Pittsburgh



maria rubio

Srivatsun (Vatsun) Sadagopan, PhD

Assistant Professor
Training faculty, Center for Neuroscience/Univ. of Pittsburgh (CNUP)
Member, Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition (CNBC)
Biomedical Science Tower 3
3501 Fifth Avenue Room 10021
Pittsburgh, PA 15261

Phone: 412-624-8920
vatsun at pitt dot edu



2015 -            Assistant Professor, Department of Otolaryngology
                     University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA.

2013 - 2014     Postdoctoral associate, Laboratory of Neural Systems
                     The Rockefeller University, New York, NY.

2011 - 2013     Leon Levy Postdoctoral Fellow, Advisor: Winrich Freiwald
                     Laboratory of Neural Systems
                     Shelby White and Leon Levy Center for Mind, Brain and Behavior
                     The Rockefeller University, New York, NY.

2008 - 2011     Postdoctoral fellow, Advisor: David Ferster
                     Department of Neurobiology and Physiology
                     Northwestern University, Evanston, IL.

2001 - 2008     PhD in Neuroscience, Advisor: Xiaoqin Wang
                     The Solomon H. Snyder Department of Neuroscience,
                     Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD.

1997 - 2001     Bachelor of Technology (Hons.) Biochemical Engineering and Biotechnology
                     Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, India.

Research Interests

We hear sounds such as speech in a wide range of listening conditions, of which few parameters are under our control. For example, sounds might emanate from different locations, at different intensities, in the presence of other noise or distracting sounds, and in echoing settings. For a given sound, each of these environmental variables alters the physical pressure waveform that impinges on our eardrums; yet, we are able to interpret these varied physical waveforms as arising from the same underlying sound. In other words, our perception of sounds is perceptually invariant to a large number of nuisance parameters, and one of the primary functions of the ascending auditory system is to develop this perceptual invariance. The research thrust of our laboratory is to study the mechanisms by which such invariance properties are generated in the neural responses of primary and higher auditory cortex. In particular, we focus on one behaviorally important set of sounds - vocal communication sounds.

Understanding how the brain processes sounds in realistic conditions is a central problem in auditory neuroscience. The best example of the impressive human ability to 'tune in' on particular sounds in noisy environments is the “cocktail party effect” – where a listener in a crowded, loquacious room can attend to one particular voice of interest. This ability is unmatched by modern speech recognition algorithms, which have accurate performance in silence, but greatly degraded performance in such real-world situations. Yet, the mechanisms and computations by which the brain accomplishes this feat is largely unknown. We hope to answer the fundamental questions of what computations the brain might be using to solve this problem, and what underlying circuitry supports these computations.

We use a range of techniques to answer these questions, including in-vivo array and multi-electrode extracellular recordings and in-vivo whole-cell intracellular recordings from awake (and eventually behaving) animals. We expect to add in-vivo two-photon imaging, inducible genetics and viral tract-tracing to this suite of techniques in the near future.

Realistic listening conditions pose a significant challenge to patients with communication disorders such as dyslexia, some sensory aphasias, to the hearing impaired, and to the elderly with age-related decline in hearing. We hope to provide fundamental insights into these disorders by understanding the circuit mechanisms by which the brain extracts meaningful signals from noise.


Recent Publications

Sadagopan S, Zarco W & Freiwald WA (2017). A causal relationship between face-patch activity and face-detection behavior. ELife 6. pii: e18558.

Sadagopan S, Temiz-Karayol NZ & Voss HU (2015). High-field functional magnetic resonance imaging of vocalization processing in marmosets. Scientific Reports (5): 10950. BioRxiv doi:

Sadagopan S & Ferster D (2012). Feedforward origins of response variability underlying contrast invariant orientation tuning in cat visual cortex. Neuron 74: 911 – 23.

Bartlett EL*, Sadagopan S* & Wang X (2011). Fine frequency tuning in monkey auditory cortex and thalamus. The Journal of Neurophysiology 106: 849 – 59. (*equal contribution)

Sadagopan S & Wang X (2010). Contribution of inhibition to stimulus selectivity in the primary auditory cortex of awake primates. The Journal of Neuroscience 30: 7314 – 25.

Sadagopan S & Wang X (2009). Nonlinear receptive fields underlie feature selectivity in primary auditory cortex. The Journal of Neuroscience 29: 11192 – 202.

Sadagopan S & Wang X (2008). Level invariant representation of sounds by populations of neurons in primary auditory cortex. The Journal of Neuroscience 28: 3415 – 26.


Postdoctoral Fellow


Pilar Montes Lourido PhD, 2016 -

Graduate Students

Shi Tong Liu, Bioengineering PhD candidate, 2015 -

Undergraduate Students

Vikram Mukherjee, 2017

Vighnesh Viswanathan, Applied Math & Neuroscience Junior, Spring 2016

Patrick Haggerty, Bioengineering Sophomore, Summer 2015 (SSOE fellowship)




We are grateful to the Pennsylvania Lions Hearing Research Foundation and The Samuel and Emma Winters Foundation for their support of our research.