John H. Wittig, Jr., Ph.D.

Headshot of John H Wittig Jr Phd.jpg

John H. Wittig, Jr., Ph.D.

Staff Scientist
Surgical Neurology Branch (SNB)

BG 10 RM 3N306

Dr. Wittig earned his bachelor’s degrees in computer engineering and biochemistry and a master’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of California in San Diego. He completed his doctoral work in bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania, and completed a subsequent postdoctoral fellowship with Dr. Barry Richmond in the Laboratory of Neuropsychology in NIMH. He is currently a staff scientist in Dr. Kareem Zaghloul's Laboratory, where he leads the team's efforts in collecting high quality intracranial recordings from epilepsy patients during behavioral testing and direct electrical stimulation.  

Dr. Wittig’s long-term research goal is to develop medical interventions – such as neural prosthetics and neurofeedback therapy – that can be used to improve cognitive function in the diseased or normal brain.  This goal is aligned with the scientific interests and expertise of the Functional and Restorative Neurosurgery Unit, and the laboratory’s focus on neurosurgical patients that have electrodes placed on their brain for approximately 2 weeks in order to treat epilepsy.  Upon becoming a staff scientist in 2018, Dr. Wittig began development of a proof-of-principle project to test whether it is possible to convey semantic information directly to a participant’s brain using electrical stimulation.  This project requires sophisticated multivariate modeling of data to identify the neurophysiological signatures of semantic information, characterization of the neurophysiological response to electrical stimulation, and engineering a real-time system for closed loop electrical stimulation.  Dr. Wittig is leading all aspects of this efforts, drawing on his expertise in system neuroscience, neurophysiology, and computer engineering.   In parallel to pursuing this proof-of-principle project, Dr. Wittig leads several projects aimed at elucidating the neural mechanisms of memory formation and retrieval.

El-Kalliny ME, Wittig JH, Sheehan TC, Sreekumar V, Inati SK, Zaghloul KA (2019) Changing temporal context in human temporal lobe promotes memory of distinct episodes. Nature Communications 10:203

Wittig JH, Jang AI, Cocjin JB, Inati SK, Zaghloul KA (2018) Attention improves memory by suppressing spiking-neuron activity in the human anterior temporal lobe. Nature Neuroscience 21:808-10

Sreekumar V, Wittig JH, Sheehan TC, Zaghloul KA (2017) Principled approaches to direct brain stimulation for cognitive enhancement. Frontiers in Neuroscience 11(650): 1-7

Jang AI*, Wittig JH*, Inati SK, Zaghloul KA (2017) Human cortical neurons in the anterior temporal lobe reinstate spiking activity during verbal memory retrieval. Current Biology 27: 1700-1705 (* authors contributed equally)

Wittig JH Jr, Morgan B, Masseau E, Richmond BJ. (2016) Humans and monkeys use different strategies to solve the same short-term memory tasks. Learn Mem. 23(11):644-647.

Wittig JH Jr, Boahen K (2013) Potassium conductance dynamics confer robust spike-time precision in a neuromorphic model of the auditory brainstem. Journal of Neurophysiology, 110(2), pp 307-21

Wittig JH Jr (2010) Sound Processing in the Brain: Biophysical Mechanisms for Precise Temporal Signaling in the Auditory System. LAP Lambert Academic Publishing