Mark J. Wagner, Ph.D.

Stadtman Investigator
Neocortex-cerebellum Circuitry Unit

Bldg 49 Rm 2A35
49 Convent Dr
Bethesda MD 20814

Dr. Wagner joined NINDS as a Stadtman Investigator in August 2021. Before joining the NIH, Dr. Wagner studied bioengineering at Harvard University, researching human motor control with Maurice Smith during a combined B.A./M.S., then obtained a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Stanford University under Mark Schnitzer, as well as postdoctoral training with Liqun Luo also at Stanford, developing novel strategies to study cortex-cerebellum circuitry in learning and behaving mice.

Our research aims to decipher the neural algorithms underlying the learning of novel skills, using multi-site in vivo two photon imaging and optogenetics during behavioral learning, computational circuit modeling, and viral-genetic neuroanatomical techniques. We've homed in on two major brain centers of learning, the neocortex and cerebellum, which compose 99% of all human neurons and are interconnected by canonical recurrent circuits that are universally conserved across all mammals. By observing and perturbing the interactions between these brain areas during learning, characterizing their connectivity, and modeling the system dynamics, we hope to extract the basic neural computations that support our remarkable ability for general learning, potentially shedding light on how these processes are disrupted in neurological disorders.


Postdoctoral Fellows

Martha Garcia Garcia

Martha Garcia-Garcia, Ph.D.
Ph.D., M.S., Biomedical Engineering, Univ of Toronto
B.S., Biomedical Engineering, Univ Iberoamericana








Samantha Berg

Samantha Berg
Ph.D. student, Clinical Psych, Univ MD Baltimore County
B.S., Psychology, Univ Central Florida






Casey Paton

Casey Paton 
M.D. student, Univ. of Rochester
M.A., Neuroscience, Fisk Univ
B.S., Human Biol Health & Soc, Cornell Univ



Photo of Tobi Akinwale

Tobi Akinwale
Masters Student, Bioinformatics, Johns Hopkins
B.S., Cell. Molec. Biol., Towson Univ






Post-baccalaureate Fellows

Akash Kapoor

Akash Kapoor
B.S., Neuroscience, UCLA






Lina Takemaru

Lina Takemaru 
M.S., B.S., Statistics, Cornell Univ









MJ Wagner, J Savall, O Hernandez, G Mel, H Inan, O Rumyantsev, J Lecoq, TH Kim, JZ Li, C Ramakrishnan, K Deisseroth, L Luo, S Ganguli, MJ Schnitzer. A neural circuit state change underlying skilled movements. Cell 184(14), 3731-3747 (2021).

SA Shuster✱, MJ Wagner, N Pan-Doh, J Ren, SM Grutzner, KT Beier, TH Kim, MJ Schnitzer, L Luo. The relationship between birth timing, circuit wiring, and physiological response properties of cerebellar granule cells. PNAS 118(23) (2021).

MJ Wagner, L Luo. Neocortex-cerebellum circuits for cognitive processing. Trends in Neurosciences 43(1), 4254 (2020).

MJ Wagner, J Savall, TH Kim, MJ Schnitzer, L Luo. Skilled reaching tasks for head-fixed mice using a robotic manipulandum. Nature Protocols 15, 1237–1254 (2020).

MJ Wagner, TH Kim, J Kadmon, ND Nguyen, S Ganguli, MJ Schnitzer, L Luo. Shared cortex-cerebellum dynamics in the execution and learning of a motor task. Cell 177, 669682 (2019).

MJ Wagner, TH Kim, J Savall, MJ Schnitzer, L Luo. Cerebellar granule cells encode the expectation of reward. Nature 544, 96100 (2017).

Y Gong, MJ Wagner, JZ Li, MJ Schnitzer. Imaging neural spiking in brain tissue using FRET-opsin protein voltage sensors. Nature Communications 5, 3674 (2014).

MJ Wagner & MA Smith. Shared internal models for feedforward and feedback control. Journal of Neuroscience 28(42), 10663-10673 (2008).