Dr. Dylan Cooke

Associate Professor
Postdoctoral Scholar, Center for Neuroscience, University
of California at Davis
M.A., Ph.D., Psychology and Neuroscience, Princeton University
A.B., Psychology, Princeton University

Phone: (778) 782-7667
Office: L8001
Lab: K8618, K8601

Director, Sensorimotor Neuroplasticity Lab

Research Interests:

I am interested in the interaction between the organization of the brain, the environment, and behaviour.

Brain organization is who we are: our personalities and abilities are determined by the connections of neurons. Learning is a change in this organization. For example, when an animal has been trained to reach precisely for a food pellet, the area of the cortex devoted to control of the reaching hand is enlarged. Such “cortical magnification” is thought to improve sensorimotor processing necessary for better performance. Therefore, the arrangement of the representation of muscles and movements in the neocortex provides a window into the behavioural priorities of the brain.

On a large scale, individuals within a species share a very similar brain organization. But decades of mapping the brain’s cortex have led to a consensus among neuroscientists that on a smaller scale, brain organization varies significantly between individuals, even between untrained laboratory animals reared in identical conditions.

My laboratory is conducting the first systematic study of variation in brain organization using as a model system the motor cortex and surrounding network of sensorimotor brain areas that integrate sensory information to guide movement. Using multiple techniques, we create layered maps of sensory processing, control of muscles and movements, connections between neurons and cellular structure of brain tissue.  An understanding of brain variation will allow us to test how it affects behaviour, learning, and even vulnerability to neurological injury. For example, do certain types of brain organization lead to learning motor skills more quickly or to higher levels of performance? We are interested in how baseline brain variation affects neuroplasticity that takes place during learning. Also, using a novel device I developed with colleagues for creating reversible “lesions” in the brain (by controlled, precise cooling) we can test how brain variation affects resistance to brain injury.

Dr. Cooke's Banting Research Foundation profile and Faculty of Science profile.

Selected Publications:

For complete list, please see Pubmed or Google Scholar.

  • Baldwin MKL, Cooke DF, Goldring AB, Krubitzer L (2018) Representations of fine digit movements in posterior and anterior parietal cortex revealed using long train intracortical microstimulation in macaque monkeys. Cereb Cortex, 28, 4244-4263.
  • Baldwin MKL, Cooke DF, Krubitzer L (2017) Intracortical microstimulation maps of motor, somatosensory, and posterior parietal cortex in tree shrews (Tupaia belangeri) reveal complex movement representations. Cereb Cortex, 27, 1439-1456.
  • Cooke DF, Miller DJ, Stepniewska I, Kaas JH, Krubitzer L (2015) Reversible deactivation of motor cortex reveals functional connectivity with posterior parietal cortex in the prosimian galago (Otolemur garnettii). J Neurosci, 35, 14406-14422.
  • Cooke DF, Goldring AB, Baldwin MKL, Recanzone GH, Chen A, Pan T, Simon SI, Krubitzer L. (2014) Reversible deactivation of higher order posterior parietal areas I: Alterations of receptive field characteristics in early stages of neocortical processing. J Neurophysiol, 112, 2529-2544.
  • Dooley JC, Franca JG, Seelke AMH, Cooke DF, Krubitzer L (2013) A connection to the past:  Monodelphis domestica provides insight into the organization and connectivity of the brains of early mammals. J Comp Neurol, 521, 3877-3897.
  • Cooke DF, Goldring AB, Yamayoshi I, Tsourkas P, Recanzone GH, Tiriac A, Pan T, Simon SI, Krubitzer L (2012) Fabrication of an inexpensive, implantable cooling device for reversible brain deactivation in animals ranging from rodents to primates. J Neurophysiol, 107, 3543-3558.
  • Cooke DF, Padberg J, Zahner T, Krubitzer L (2012) The functional organization and cortical connections of motor cortex in squirrels. Cereb Cortex, 22, 1959-1978.
  • Krubitzer L, Campi KL, Cooke DF (2011) All rodents are not the same:  A modern synthesis of cortical organization. Brain Behav Evol, 78, 51-93.
  • Padberg J, Recanzone G, Engle J, Cooke D, Goldring A, Krubitzer L (2010) Lesions in Posterior Parietal Area 5 in Monkeys Result in Rapid Behavioral and Cortical Plasticity. J Neurosci, 30, 12918-12935.
  • Padberg J, Franca J, Cooke DF, Soares J, Rosa M, Fiorani Jr  M, Gattass R, Krubitzer L (2007) Parallel evolution of cortical areas involved in skilled hand use. J Neurosci, 27, 10106-10115.
  • Graziano MSA & Cooke DF (2006) Parieto-frontal interactions, personal space, and defensive behavior. Neuropsychologia, 44, 845-859.
  • Cooke DF, Graziano MSA (2004) Super-flinchers and nerves of steel: Defensive movements altered by chemical manipulation of a cortical motor area. Neuron, 43, 585-593.
  • Cooke DF, Graziano MSA (2004) Sensorimotor integration in the precentral gyrus: polysensory neurons and defensive movements. J Neurophysiol, 91, 1648-1660.
  • Cooke DF, Taylor CSR, Moore T, Graziano MSA (2003) Complex movements evoked by microstimulation of the ventral intraparietal area. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 100, 6163-6168.
  • Graziano MSA, Taylor CSR, Moore T, Cooke DF (2002) The cortical control of movement revisited.  Neuron 36, 349-362.
  • Graziano MSA, Cooke DF, Taylor CSR (2000) Coding the location of the arm by sight. Science, 290, 1782-1786.



BPK 207 Sensorimotor control and learning
BPK 447 (formerly BPK 423) Neuroplasticity
NEUR 801 Foundations of Systems Neuroscience

Training opportunities:

Trainees will have the opportunity to build a wide range of transferable, high-level technical skills such as surgery; electrophysiology; design and assembly of complex electronic instrumentation and software coding to control it; histological processing; fluorescent microscopy; data analysis; and data visualization. This broad skill set will prepare students for fields such as medicine, healthcare, technology, and academic research.


Dr. Cooke welcomes inquiries from enthusiastic prospective MSc and PhD students with relevant training.  Please email a cover letter explaining your career goals, research experience, and specific interest in Dr. Cooke’s laboratory along with a CV, transcripts (unofficial is fine), and relevant publications to

SFU is Canada’s leading comprehensive university. Dr. Cooke’s lab is on the main campus on the top of Burnaby Mountain overlooking Burrard Inlet and downtown Vancouver.  The campus is surrounded by hiking/biking trails through protected parkland and is close to beaches, skiing, and wilderness.


SFU undergraduates can apply to join Dr. Cooke’s laboratory as volunteers, for academic credit, or in paid positions.  To be considered, please email Dr. Cooke your CV, unofficial transcript and a brief description of your interest in this laboratory.