• John McGann
  • John McGann
  • Focus Area: Human Behavior and Ecology

    John McGann, a Professor in the Rutgers Psychology Department, is a neuroscientist who studies the interaction of learning and sensory processing in the brain. He received a BA and MS in Psychology in 1998, an M.Phil. in Neuroscience in 2000, and a PhD in Neuroscience in 2003, all from Yale University. He did his postdoctoral training at Boston University and joined the Rutgers faculty in 2009. He was tenured in 2013 and promoted to full Professor in 2019. He directs the Laboratory on the Neural Basis of Sensory Cognition (colloquially known as the McGann Lab), which is funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders. Dr. McGann teaches undergraduate courses on Sensation & Perception and Research Design & Methods, as well as graduate neuroscience courses covering neuroscientific methodology, computational neuroscience, and sensory processing.


    Dr. McGann is interested in how the brain’s sensory systems use information learned from the environment to optimize the perception of incoming stimuli and choice among potential behavioral responses. Most of his work is performed in the mouse and human olfactory systems, which exhibit remarkable neural plasticity with experience. His most prominent findings include the discovery that olfactory sensory neurons selectively change the signals they send the brain for odors that predict an impending shock (Kass et al. 2013 in Science). He has also recently published work illustrating the excellence of the human sense of smell and tracing the anthropological and neuroscientific origins of the myth that humans are ‘microsmatic’ (McGann 2017 in Science). This work demonstrates that brain regions should not automatically be judged in terms of their relative size.