Michael Arbib, Ph.D.


The thrust of Michael Arbib’s work is expressed in the title of his first book, Brains, Machines and Mathematics (McGraw-Hill, 1964): the brain is not a computer in the current technological sense, but we can learn much about machines from studying brains, and much about brains from studying machines. After a career at Stanford and at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, he combined research and teaching  in computer science, neuroscience and more at the University of Southern California from 1986 to 2016. He is currently an Adjunct Professor of Psychology at the University of California at San Diego. and a Contributing Faculty Member at the NewSchool of Architecture and Design in San Diego.

Arbib has made major contributions to computational neuroscience and pioneered the computational study of mirror neurons and (with Giacomo Rizzolatti) their relevance to the human brain’s potential for language. 2012 saw the publication of Arbib’s 40thbook, How the Brain Got Language: The Mirror System Hypothesis, since followed by Language, Music and the Brain: A Mysterious Relationship and From Neuron to Cognition via Computational Neuroscience.

ANFA Themes

After serving on the ANFA Board of Directors, including time as Vice-President, he now leads the ANFA Advisory Council. He chaired the review committee for papers submitted to the biennial ANFA conferences in 2012, 2014 and 2016. He is currently writing a book on the linkage of neuroscience and architecture. Where much of ANFA’s efforts focus on the neuroscience of the experience of architecture, Arbib has a special interest in the cognitive neuroscience of architectural design and in “neuromorphic architecture” – supplying buildings with an “interaction infrastructure” whose design is informed by research on computational models for cognitive and social neuroscience.

Select Publications

Arbib, M. A. (2012). Brains, machines and buildings: towards a neuromorphic architecture. Intelligent Buildings International, 4(3), 147-168, DOI:110.1080/17508975.17502012.17702863.

Arbib, M. A. (2015). Towards a Neuroscience of the Design Process. In S. Robinson & J. Pallasmaa (Eds.), Mind in Architecture: Neuroscience, Embodiment and the Future of Design(pp. 75-98). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Arbib, M. A. (2016). When Brains Design/Experience Buildings: Architectural Patterns for a Good Life. In J. W. Vasbinder & B. Z. Gulyás (Eds.), Cultural Patterns and Neurocognitive Circuits(pp. 111-140). Singapore: World Scientific Publishers.