Ishmail Abdus-Saboor, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Biological Sciences and the Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute, Columbia University, New York, NY
Skin-Brain Axis for Rewarding Touch Behaviors
Social touch is a key stimulus that is foundational to human experiences ranging from nurturing others and building social bonds to sexual receptivity. Working with a mouse model and optogenetics, Abdus-Saboor’s previous research has shown that there are direct connections between skin neural cells and the brain, and that dedicated cells are specifically tuned to certain touch cues. These cells are necessary and sufficient to elicit specific physical responses.
In his new research, Abdus-Saboor and his team aim to define how neurons in the skin trigger unique positive signals in the brain, and how the brain receives and processes those signals as rewarding, as well as identifying touch neurons that are required in different touch scenarios (nurturing pups vs. grooming or play). A third aim will seek to identify what sensor on these cells identifies touch. The research will reveal more about the skin-brain connection, with potential applications for researchers studying social disorders.
Yasmine El-Shamayleh, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Neuroscience & Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute, Columbia University, New York City, NY
Cortical Circuits for Perceiving Visual Form
In primates, roughly 30% of the cerebral cortex is dedicated to processing visual information. Using new techniques, Dr. El-Shamayleh is working toward developing a detailed mechanistic understanding of how the brain detects and recognizes the objects we see. Focusing on cortical area V4, El-Shamayleh’s research is revealing how various types of neurons in this brain region support our ability to perceive the shape of visual objects.
Cortical area V4 is highly attuned to the shape of objects in the world. Building on these key insights and using novel applications of viral vector-based optogenetics, El-Shamayleh is recording and manipulating the activity of specific groups of V4 neurons with unprecedented precision. This research is identifying how various types of neurons in cortical area V4 interact to process an object’s shape and will unlock details about how primate brains process visual information. The technical innovations established in this research will also facilitate future mechanistic studies of primate brain function and behaviors.
Vikram Gadagkar, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Neuroscience & Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute, Columbia University, New York City, NY
Neural Mechanisms of Courtship and Monogamy
While there has been significant research into how animals learn and perform behaviors, less attention has been paid to how one animal evaluates the performance of another during social interactions. In songbirds, most research has looked at what happens in the brains of males performing a song to attract a mate, but not what occurs in the female bird’s brain as she listens to male song.
Dr. Gadagkar’s work will look at a part of the brain called HVC, a sensorimotor nucleus known to be active in males to keep time as they learn and perform their song. For the first time, he and his lab are recording what happens in female HVC as she listens and evaluates male song. Second, Dr. Gadagkar will examine how females make their evaluation, and what neurons do when errors are detected. Finally, the research will look at the dopamine system to see how the brain shows a preference for the most attractive performance.
Hidehiko Inagaki, Ph.D., Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience, Jupiter, FL
Synaptic Mechanisms and Network Dynamics Underlying Motor Learning
Learning a new skill requires the brain to make changes to its circuitry, a process known as plasticity. While significant research has been done to identify how brain networks execute the skill, less is understood about the mechanics of learning new skills. Dr. Inagaki and his team are working to zero in on the cells and processes involved during the process of learning.
Using in vivo 2-photon imaging and large-scale electrophysiology in a mouse model, Dr. Inagaki and his team can now watch at the cellular level what changes are happening as a new skill is learned – in this case, learning a new timing for the action. Using genetic manipulation to enable the researchers to activate or inhibit proteins associated with plasticity, they aim to uncover not just what changes in the brain, but how those changes are initiated and consolidated. Understanding more about how learning works could have implications for research into learning impairments.
Peri Kurshan, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY
Unravelling The Mechanisms of Synapse Development, From Molecules to Behavior
Synapses, the places where signals are sent and received between neurons, are the key to the function of neural circuits that underlie behavior. Understanding how synapses develop at the molecular level and how synaptic development influences behavior is the aim of Dr. Kurshan’s research. The dominant model holds that a class of proteins called synaptic cell-adhesion molecules (sCAMs) initiate the process, with a family of sCAMs called neurexins especially indicated. But in vivo research shows that knocking out neurexins does not eliminate synapses.
Dr Kurshan’s work indicates that presynaptic cytosolic scaffold proteins may self-associate with the cell membrane, and then subsequently recruit neurexins to stabilize synapses. In her new research, using imaging, proteomics, computational modeling, and transgenic manipulation, she and her lab aim to identify what proteins and cell-membrane components are involved and how they interact. The research has implications for a range of neurological disorders that are tied to synaptic defects.
Scott Linderman, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Statistics and Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute, Stanford University, Stanford, CA
Machine Learning Methods for Discovering Structure in Neural and Behavioral Data
Dr. Linderman’s contributions to neuroscience lie in developing machine learning methods that can manage and extract insights from the staggering amounts of data these kinds of research produce, such as high-resolution recordings of large numbers of neurons across the brain and simultaneously observing behaviors of freely behaving animals over long timeframes. Linderman and his team partner with research labs to develop probabilistic machine learning methods to find patterns in all that data.
Linderman’s lab is focused specifically on computational neuroethology and probabilistic modeling – essentially, figuring out how to construct and fit statistical models to the kind of data researchers produce today. His ongoing and future projects demonstrate the breadth of ways machine learning can be applied to neural research. Linderman approaches the work as an integrated partner with experimental collaborators, and by developing methods to solve the problems of neurobiology is also helping advance the fields of statistics and machine learning.
Swetha Murthy, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Vollum Institute, Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, OR
Mechanosensation for Guiding Cellular Morphology
Mechanosensation – or the detection of physical force by a cell or a neuron – is a surprisingly subtle and multi-purpose function mediated by certain ion channels (among other proteins) on the cellular membrane. An obvious example is the sense of touch. Dr. Murthy’s lab is digging into a much smaller-scale instance of mechanosensation with profound implications for neural health: The process of myelination, in which specialized cells called oligodendrocytes (OLs) form a sheath around a nerve to improve conduction.
It is hypothesized that mechanical cues (among other factors) can govern OL morphology and myelination, but the underlying mechanisms have remained unknown. Murthy’s lab is studying the mechano-activated ion channel TMEM63A, which is expressed in OLs, to reveal how these channels could mediate myelination and in turn shed light on how mechanical cues guide the process. Understanding how myelination can work – and how it can fail – will be helpful to researchers studying a range of conditions tied to myelination.
Karthik Shekhar, Ph.D., Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering/ Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA
Evolution of Neural Diversity and Patterning in the Visual System
Dr. Shekhar’s lab seeks to understand how diverse neural types and their organization evolved to serve the needs of different animals. His research focuses on the visual system of the brain, specifically the retina and the primary visual cortex, which are remarkably well conserved across species separated by hundreds of millions of years of evolution.
Shekhar’s research will examine the evolutionary conservation and divergence of neuronal types in the retina of several vertebrate species, from fish to birds to mammals, and use computational approaches to reconstruct the evolution of neural diversity, including whether evolution led to the rise of new types or modification of existing types. A concurrent effort will investigate the visual cortex and trace the origins of early developmental epochs known as “critical periods”, where neural networks in the brain show exquisite plasticity to sensory experience. A guiding principle underlying Shekhar’s approach is that interdisciplinary collaborations can bring new approaches to tackle big questions in neuroscience.
Tanya Sippy, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, New York University Grossman School of Medicine, New York City, NY
Modulation of Striatal Cells and Synapses by Dopamine Movement Signals
Dopamine is perhaps the most widely known neuromodulator, largely due to the role it plays in signaling reward. However, dopamine also plays a key role in movement, which is clearly demonstrated by the inability of patients with Parkinson’s Disease, a disorder of dopamine, to initiate movements. Dr. Sippy aims to help learn more about how dopamine is involved in movement, through very precise in vivo measurements of dopamine fluctuations simultaneously with the membrane potential in target neurons.
Membrane potential recordings allow Dr. Sippy’s lab members to measure two properties of neurons that are known to be affected by neuromodulation: 1) the strength of synaptic inputs and 2) the excitability of the neurons that determines how they respond to these inputs. But measuring both dopamine fluctuations and membrane potential in one cell is very hard. Sippy’s work hinges on the discovery that dopamine activity is mirrored in the two hemispheres of the brain, and so measurement of it and membrane potential can be made on opposite sides and still have strongly correlated results. With these recordings made, Sippy will optogenetically manipulate the dopamine system and see how activating or suppressing dopamine affects the properties of target neurons, and how this affects the actions of the animal.
Moriel Zelikowsky, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT
Neuropeptidergic Cortical Control of Social Isolation
Prolonged social isolation can negatively impact mammalian life, including a steep rise in aggression. While many studies have looked at subcortical control of natural forms of aggression, few have looked at pathological forms of aggression or their top-down control. Dr. Zelikowsky aims to better understand the mechanism and cortical circuits involved in the rise of aggression as a result of chronic social isolation.
Initial research using a mouse model identified a role for the neuropeptide Tachykinin 2 (Tac2) as a subcortical neuromodulator of isolation-induced fear and aggression. Critically, Tac2 was also found to be upregulated in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) after social isolation. Zelikowsky’s research uses cell-type specific perturbations in mice who have experienced social isolation. Machine learning is used to identify clusters of behavior, which are mapped to imaged brain activity. By understanding how isolation can change the brains of mammals, future researchers may be able to better understand the effects of extended social deprivation in humans.
Christine Constantinople, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, New York University Center for Neural Science, New York City, NY
Neural Circuit Mechanisms of Inference
Dr. Constantinople is working with a rat model to uncover what parts of the brain are involved in inferring things about the world and how neurons come to represent things in the world, and the neurological differences between making a cognitive decision in an uncertain environment or falling back on habitual action. The experiment involves waiting for a known water reward, or “opting out” in hopes that the next reward offered is more worthwhile.
By monitoring brain activity in multiple regions and in specific projections during both predictable and unpredictable periods and the transitions between them, and inactivating specific brain regions and neural pathways in different trials, Dr. Constantine proposes to identify the mechanisms involved in inference. She proposes that different processes are involved when choosing action based on a mental model vs. model-free decisions; that different thalamic nuclei encode the rewards and the rat’s history separately; and that the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) integrates these two overlapping but distinct inputs to infer unknown states.
Bradley Dickerson, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Princeton Neuroscience Institute, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ
Proportional-Integral Feedback in a Biological ‘Gyroscope’
The nervous system collects and acts on incoming information within milliseconds – sometimes with hard-wired reflexes, sometimes with intention. Dr. Dickerson proposes to resolve the level of control fruit flies have over certain wing muscle assemblies through an experiment that studies specialized mechanosensory organs unique to flies known as halteres, which act as a sort of automatic gyroscope.
Dr. Dickerson proposes that the haltere has separate control mechanisms that can be recruited during perturbations to offer the fly maximum control. In controls engineering lingo, he believes the haltere can react to both proportional (the size of a perturbation) and integral (how the perturbation changes over time) feedback – a greater sophistication than previously believed. Using an epiflourescent microscope, a two-photon microscope above the fly to monitor brain activity, and a camera below tracking wing motion, he will track what happens in neurons and muscles when the fly is presented with visual stimuli. He hopes to create a model of how brains, neurons, and muscles communicate that can advance our understanding of how movement is controlled.
Markita Landry, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, University of California – Berkeley, Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Berkely, CA
Illuminating Oxytocin Signaling in the Brain with Near-Infrared Fluorescent Nanosensors
Dr. Landry’s work involves the creation of “optical probes” – miniscule carbon nanotubes with a peptide bound to the surface that will fluoresce in near-infrared light when in the presence of oxytocin in the brain. This fluorescence can be detected with high precision on a millisecond timescale, letting researchers see exactly where and when it is present in a brain, and so identify under what conditions oxytocin release might be impaired (and thus treatable) in mood, behavior, and social disorders.
Importantly, these nanotubes can be introduced into brain tissue externally; the fluorescence is not the result of genetic encoding, so it can be used on animals that have not been modified. Because they emit near-infrared light, it is possible that the light can be detected through the cranium, which would enable minimal disturbance to the subjects. With these sensors as a tool, Dr. Landry hopes to help improve diagnosis of neurological disorders and so destigmatize and improve treatment of many such conditions.
Lauren Orefice, Ph.D., Massachusetts General Hospital / Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA
Development, Function, and Dysfunction of Somatosensory and Viscerosensory Systems in Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has traditionally been thought to be caused solely by abnormalities in the brain, but in her research, Dr. Orefice has found that alterations in peripheral sensory neurons contribute to the development of ASD symptoms in mice, including hypersensitivity to touch of the skin and altered social behaviors. Her current research will focus on whether peripheral sensory neurons of the dorsal root ganglia (DRG) that detect stimuli in the gastrointestinal tract are also abnormal in mouse models for ASD, and understanding how alterations in somatosensory circuit development due to peripheral sensory neuron dysfunction result in changes to connected brain circuits that regulate or modify social behaviors.
Finally, Dr. Orefice will focus on translating her findings from preclinical mouse studies to understanding ASD-associated sensory issues in humans. Dr. Orefice will first test whether approaches that reduce peripheral sensory neuron excitability can improve touch over-reactivity and gastrointestinal problems in mice. She will leverage these findings in mice to better understand human physiology using studies of cultured cells taken from people with ASD.
Kanaka Rajan, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Neurobiology, Blavatnik Institute, Harvard Medical School; Faculty, Kempner Institute for the Study of Natural and Artificial Intelligence, Harvard University
Multiscale Neural Network Models to Infer Functional Motifs in the Brain
Dr. Rajan is harnessing the power of AI-based models to make better, more predictive representations of the brain. Using recurrent neural network models (RNNs), Dr. Rajan has discovered that placing more constraints on computational models resulted in more consistent findings and smaller, more robust solution spaces. She has since turned to developing multi-scale RNNs where the constraints are neural, behavior, and anatomical data from real experiments, and are simultaneously applied. Her next step will be to create multi-scale RNNs using such data recorded from multiple species well-studied in neuroscience—larval zebrafish, fruit flies, and mice—to create models.
Ultimately, using datasets from different species will allow Dr. Rajan to identify “Functional Motifs” and use them to discover unexpected commonalities and divergences across these systems. These common, discrete ensembles of active neurons that are linked to similar behaviors and states, regardless of species, will help us to infer how brains operate at a fundamental level. With the data available, these models can run many scenarios and identify what changes in structure or neural activity result in different behavioral outcomes.
Weiwei Wang, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX
Understanding the Construction and Function of Glycinergic Post-Synaptic Assemblies
The way neurons communicate with each other is remarkably intricate: neurotransmitters are passed from one neuron to the next across synapses, signaling synaptic receptors on the receiving neuron to open and form channels that allow ions to pass through, and so transmitting an electrical signal. However, if the synapses fail to work or fail to form, the impairment of these signals can contribute to neurological disorders. Dr. Wang seeks to broaden our understanding of these synapses, how they form, and how they work – in particular, how they organize synaptic receptors into clusters, and why it matters that the receptors assemble in high concentrations – by studying in detail the glycinergic synapse.
Dr. Wang will use cryo-electron microscopy to precisely identify the molecular structure of each glycinergic synapse sub-type that has not yet been resolved and so identify how each functions; test how the scaffolding that the glycine receptors cluster on is formed from the proteins gephyrin, neuroligin-2, and collybistin; and finally test purified receptors on an artificial membrane, first in isolation, then bound to the scaffold, and then bound to the scaffold in a cluster to see how the function changes.
Lucas Cheadle, PhD, Assistant Professor, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Cold Spring Harbor, NY
Uncovering the Molecular Basis of Microglial Function in the Stimulated Brain
In his research, Dr. Cheadle is studying the development of visual neural connections using a mouse model in which some mice are reared in a light-free environment during a crucial stage of development. His previous research shows that microglia essentially “sculpt” the visual system, culling synaptic connections that are less beneficial. As a result, the physical ordering of that part of the neural system is different in mice reared in the dark than those reared in light. In his ongoing work, Dr. Cheadle will seek to identify at the molecular level how microglia are stimulated by external factors (such as light) and the mechanisms by which they then sculpt synapses.
The research offers several novel approaches, including using gene-editing technology to knock out specific microglial genes to define their roles in visual circuit development, as well as creating a transgenic line of mice that tags functionally active microglial cells in the brain, both tactics most often applied to neurons that Dr. Cheadle is adapting to study microglia for the first time.
Josie Clowney, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Michigan, Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, Ann Arbor, MI
A Feminist Framing of Fruitless: Maleness as a Suppression of Female Neural Programs
A great deal of research into the differences between male and female brains has been behavioral, such as the performance of mating rituals, but less is understood about how the genes that drive those rituals are tuned in the brain. Dr. Clowney hypothesizes that the process is one of subtraction. Her studies to date using a fruit fly model suggest that the male brain may result from the removal of neural programs from a “base model” that is much closer to the female brain, rather than the creation of new programs.
Key to the process is a fruit fly transcription factor called “Fruitless,” a protein created only in male fruit fly brains. In her research, Dr. Clowney will conduct experiments using a variety of techniques to observe the gain or loss of sex-associated circuits and behaviors in animals with or without Fruitless.
Shaul Druckmann, PhD, Assistant Professor of Neurobiology and of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, CA
How Does the Brain Compute Using Activity Distributed Across Populations and Brain Areas?
After decades of research, we still have a limited understanding of how the brain performs computations across regions. This very fundamental question is at the heart of Dr. Druckmann’s work, which takes advantage of the increasing scope and detail of brain activity recording to explore what happens in the brain between stimulus and response, specifically when the response is delayed and short-term memory is engaged.
Preliminary data show that activity is present and changing across regions and in different neuronal populations in these situations, and Druckmann aims to show that this collective activity is interacting across brain areas and the ways that interactions can “fix” the necessary memories and motion intention, even when a single region or population’s activity might be erroneous. An additional goal of the project is to expand the way researchers work; his project involves intense collaboration with several other researchers, and he hopes to be able to explore both basic science and also pursue clinical applications for his findings.
Laura Lewis, PhD, Assistant Professor, Boston University, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Boston, MA
Imaging Neural and Fluid Dynamics in the Sleeping Brain
Both neural activity and the fluid dynamics of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) change during sleep, with varied consequences – sensory systems shift away from awareness of external stimuli and towards memory reactivation, and CSF flows into the brain and clears away toxic proteins that build up during waking hours. Intriguingly, the two processes are closely correlated. In her research, Dr. Lewis will investigate the connection between neural and fluid dynamics during sleep and the connection of each to brain health.
To do so, Dr. Lewis is using innovative methods to observe synchronized, precise neural activity and CSF flow. Her research will explore first how these slow waves are activated in the brain and which neural networks are involved, using auditory stimuli that can enhance slow waves. Second, she will examine the link between these slow waves and CSF flow.
Ashok Litwin-Kumar, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Neuroscience and Zuckerman Institute, Columbia University, New York, NY
Connectome-Constrained Models of Adaptive Behavior
In his research, Dr. Litwin-Kumar aims to develop a methodology to bring the worlds of the connectome (wiring diagrams of nervous systems) and functional models of behavior together by developing ways to identify relevant structures within a connectome that can constrain the behavioral models – for example, by limiting the models so they only use synaptic connections that physically exist in the connectome, rather than making physically impossible leaps between neurons.
To test and refine this approach, Dr. Litwin-Kumar is first focusing on the connectome of a part of the fruit fly brain. In this part of the brain, sensory inputs are projected to output neurons, which trigger behaviors such as approach or avoidance reactions. The team will seek to efficiently identify structure within the connectome that reflects how information is relayed. Then they will test deep learning models constrained by those connections to see how effectively they predict responses to stimuli, compared to unconstrained models.
David Schneider, PhD, Assistant Professor, New York University, Center for Neural Science, New York, NY
Coordinate Transforms in the Mouse Cortex
Dr. Schneider’s work focuses on how motor control and sensory regions of the brain work together in this way and will work to uncover how the brain learns and forms memories that form the basis of what is expected. In his experiments, Dr. Schneider focuses on a conduit connecting a motor control region to an auditory sensory region. Whenever a movement is made, the two regions communicate in a way that tells the auditory system to disregard sound created by that movement.
These experiments will help identify the role of specific neurons in anticipating sensory responses, how motor control and sensory centers of the brain interact, and how the pathways between the motor and sensory regions change when a new sound becomes “expected.” Further research will block certain pathways in the brain to determine their role in making predictions, and also see how the brain uses visual input to help anticipate self-generated sounds.
Swathi Yadlapalli, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Michigan Medical School, Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, Ann Arbor, MI
Cellular Mechanisms Controlling Circadian Rhythms
Circadian clocks drive many of the rhythms of our biological system, such as when we sleep, wake, how we metabolize, and much more. But exactly what is happening within any given cell to create that rhythm is poorly understood. Previous biochemical and genetic research had identified crucial proteins that are transcription factors, either positive or inhibitory, with a role in circadian rhythms. Dr. Yadlapalli has developed innovative methods of performing single-cell, high-resolution visualization of these proteins and how they interact over a 24-hour period in the living cells of fruit flies for the first time. These methods uncovered the role of one of the key inhibitory transcription factors, called PER, which gathers to form foci evenly distributed around the envelope of the cell nucleus, and play a role in altering the nuclear location of clock genes during the cycle.
In a series of experiments, Dr. Yadlapalli will determine the mechanisms involved in this process – how the foci form and where they localize, and how they promote the repression of clock-regulated genes. Understanding more about the working of these fundamental, powerful cellular processes will provide a starting point for research into many sleep and metabolic disorders and neurological diseases.
Steven Flavell, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA
Elucidating Fundamental Mechanisms of Gut-Brain Signaling in C. elegans
Little is understood about how the gut and brain interact mechanistically. Dr. Flavell’s research will build on discoveries his lab has made studying the C. elegans worm, whose simple and well-defined nervous system can generate relatively complex behaviors that are easily studied in the lab. Dr. Flavell and his team have identified a specific type of enteric neuron (neurons lining the gut) that is only active while C. elegans feed on bacteria. His experiments will identify the bacterial signals that activate the neurons, examine the roles of other neurons in gut-brain signaling, and examine how feedback from the brain influences the detection of gut bacteria. This research could open new lines of inquiry into the human microbiome and how it influences human health and disease, including neurological and psychiatric disorders.
Nuo Li, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Neuroscience, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX
Cerebellar Computations during Motor Planning
Dr. Li’s lab has revealed that the anterior lateral motor cortex (ALM, a specific part of the mouse frontal cortex) and the cerebellum are locked in a loop while the mouse is planning an action. Still unknown is exactly what information is being passed back and forth, but it is distinct from the signal that actually drives the muscles. If the connection is disrupted even for an instant during planning, the movement will be made incorrectly.
Dr. Li’s experiments will uncover the role of the cerebellum in motor planning and define the anatomical structures that link it and the ALM. He will map the cerebellar cortex and find out which populations of a special type of cell used in cerebellar computation, called Purkinje cells, are activated by the ALM in motor planning, and what signals they send back and forth while planning. A second aim will explore what kind of computation the cerebellum is engaged in. Through this work, Dr. Li will learn more about these sophisticated, fundamental brain processes.
Lauren O’Connell, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Biology, Stanford University, Stanford, CA
Neuronal Basis of Parental Engrams in the Infant Brain
Dr. O’Connell’s work will help identify how memories are formed in infancy as part of the bonding process, will trace those memory imprints to identify how they affect future decision-making, and will explore the neurological impact of disrupted bonding. In the frogs O’Connell is studying, receiving food and care leads the tadpole to imprint on the parent, which in turn affects the tadpole’s future choice of mate: it will prefer mates that look like the caregiver.
O’Connell has identified neuronal markers that are enriched in tadpoles that beg for food which are analogous to those implicated in a range of neurological issues related to learning and social behavior in humans. Her research will explore the neuronal architecture involved in infant recognition and bonding with caregivers, as well as brain activity when making mate choices later in life, to see how neuronal activity in each process is related.
Zhaozhou Qiu, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Physiology and Neuroscience, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD
Discovering Molecular Identity and Function of Novel Chloride Channels in the Nervous System
Much research to date has been focused on ion channels conducting positively-charged ions, such as sodium, potassium and calcium. However, the function of ion channels allowing the passing of chloride, the most abundant negatively-charged ion, remains poorly understood. By performing high-throughput genomics screens, Dr. Qiu and his research team have identified two new families of chloride channels, activated by cell volume increase and acidic pH, respectively. His research aims to investigate the neurological function of these new ion channels with a focus on neuron-glia interactions, synaptic plasticity, and learning and memory. Dr. Qiu will extend this approach to other mysterious chloride channels in the brain. His research will provide key insights into how chloride is regulated in the nervous system.
Maria Antonietta Tosches, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Columbia University, New York, NY
The Evolution of Gene Modules and Circuit Motifs for Cortical Inhibition
Modern brains were shaped by a long evolutionary history. Dr. Tosches is conducting research to understand these processes and figure out what fundamental neural systems have been conserved in vertebrate animals separated by hundreds of millions of years of evolution.
Dr. Tosches is exploring the evolutionary history of GABAergic neurons. Her previous experiments have found the GABAergic neurons of reptiles and mammals are genetically similar, indicating that these neuron types existed already in vertebrate ancestors; they also share gene modules associated with specific neuronal functions in both types of brains. In Tosches’ new research, she will determine if these same neurons types are found in the simple brain of salamanders. This work will introduce a completely new animal model to circuit neuroscience, adding to our understanding of how the brain works at a fundamental level.
Daniel Wacker, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY
Accelerating Drug Discovery for Cognitive Disorders through Structural Studies of a Serotonin Receptor
Dr. Wacker proposes a novel approach to drug discovery that focuses in on a specific serotonin receptor known as 5-HT7R (which doesn’t carry the same risks as activating the dopamine system as many drugs do), carefully mapping that receptor’s structure at a molecular scale, and seeking out compounds that will bind to that receptor in a specific way. Dr. Wacker proposes to conduct a structural study of the receptor using X-ray crystallography on purified samples of the receptor. Wacker’s team will then conduct a computerized search of hundreds of millions of compounds, comparing their 3D structure with the 3D model of the receptor for those most likely to “fit.” This computerized process offers the opportunity to essentially pre-screen drugs based on their structure, and speed their development.
Jayeeta Basu, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Neuroscience Institute, New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY
Cortical Sensory Modulation of Hippocampal Activity and Spatial Representation
Dr. Basu aims to map the circuitry involved between the LEC and specific hippocampal neurons. Her lab will directly record the signals received by the thin dendrites of the neurons when LEC signals are sent with or without MEC signals, and at different signal strengths. A second series of experiments with mice will test the hypothesis that these LEC inputs support the creation of memories of place while learning – scent cues will trigger behavior to seek rewards at distinct places. Researchers will see how switching on or off LEC signals during learning or during recall affect the activation of place cells in the brain and the learning behavior itself. This research may be relevant in future studies of Alzheimer’s disease, PTSD and other conditions where memory and contextual “triggers” are activated.
Juan Du, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Structural Biology Program, Center for Cancer and Cell Biology, Van Andel Research Institute, Grand Rapids, MI
Regulation mechanism of thermosensitive receptors in nervous system
Dr. Du will conduct a three-part project to unlock the secrets of how temperature information is received and processed by the neural system. She is looking at three particular receptors, one that detects cool and cold temperatures externally, one that detects extreme external heat, and one that detects warm temperatures in the brain (for regulating body temperature.) She will first identify purification conditions for these receptors so they can be extracted and used in lab experiments and still operate the same as receptors in the body.
A second aim is to see what structures on the receptors are activated by temperature and understanding how they work. This will also include the development of new therapeutics that can bind to these structures and regulate them. Third, when the structures are understood, validation experiments in which the receptors are mutated to change or remove temperature sensitivity will be conducted, first on cells, and then in mice, to see how alterations to temperature-sensitive receptors impact behavior.
Mark Harnett, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA
Perturbing Dendritic Compartmentalization to Evaluate Single Neuron Cortical Computations
Dr. Harnett is looking at dendrites in the visual system with precise electrical and optical tools, to measure how signals travel down dendrite branches, and measure how altering the dendrites changes how the neuron operates. These perturbations will allow Dr. Harnett to test if inhibiting signals on a specific branch of a dendrite changes how the neural network responds to certain visual stimuli. Learning that a single neuron is essentially made up of its own network of smaller signal processors would change our understanding of how the brain computes. Among other things, this could affect how artificial intelligence, which is modelled on neural networks, evolves in years to come.
Weizhe Hong, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Departments of Biological Chemistry and Neurobiology, University of California, Los Angeles, CA
Neural Circuit Mechanisms of Maternal Behavior
A particular focus of Dr. Hong’s work will be investigating the role of an evolutionarily conserved brain region called the amygdala in controlling parenting behavior. While female mice usually engage in extensive pup nurturing behaviors, male mice generally do not show parenting behavior until their own offspring are born.
The research will identify specific, molecularly defined neuronal populations that mediate parenting behavior. The research will also compare the neural circuits in males and females to understand how neural activity in these neurons regulates parenting behavior. This research will provide key insights into the neural basis of an essential social behavior and the basic principles governing sexually dimorphic behaviors.
Rachel Roberts-Galbraith, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Cellular Biology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA
Regeneration of the Central Nervous System in Planarians
By studying successful neural regeneration in the natural world, Dr. Roberts-Galbraith hopes to learn details about the mechanism of neural regeneration and the role of different cells. One aim is to investigate whether neurons can detect injury and self-initiate repairs themselves by sending signals that trigger and direct regrowth. Dr. Roberts-Galbraith hypothesizes that neurons influence planarian stem cells, which are recruited to regrow parts of the central nervous system (and other body parts). Fine control of stem cells is critical for regeneration, as planarians faithfully replace missing tissues and never develop tumors.
Another aim is to examine the role of glial cells, which have traditionally been seen as the glue of the nervous system but which clearly possess more significant roles than previously recognized. Glial cells make up a large part of animals’ nervous systems and must be regenerated along with neurons; they are also likely to modulate neuronal regeneration. The hope is this research will provide more understanding of how regeneration can happen in the most successful cases, and perhaps inform new ways of thinking about neural regeneration in humans.
Shigeki Watanabe, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Cell Biology and Neuroscience, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD
Mechanistic Insights into Membrane Remodeling at Synapses
Dr. Watanabe will use a technique called flash-and-freeze electron microscopy to research this process. Neurons will be stimulated with light – the flash – then the process will be stopped precisely with high-pressure freezing at precise time intervals microseconds after stimulation. The frozen synapses can then be visualized with an electron microscope. By taking a series of images frozen at different time intervals after stimulation, Dr. Watanabe will create a step-by-step visualization of the process and identify the proteins involved and what they do. Not only will this give a better understanding of how neurons work, it has implications for diseases that are related to faulty neural transmission, such as Alzheimer’s Disease.
Eiman Azim, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory,
Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, CA
Spinal Circuits Controlling Dexterous Forelimb Movement
Dexterous movements of our arms, hands and fingers are fundamental to our everyday interactions with the world, but science is just starting to scratch the surface of understanding how specific neural circuits control the precision, speed and fidelity of these impressive motor behaviors. Dr. Azim’s laboratory at the Salk Institute is at the forefront of this field, deploying a multidisciplinary approach aimed at dissecting the molecular, anatomical and functional diversity of motor pathways one element at a time. Taking advantage of recent advances in machine learning, computer vision technology and molecular-genetic tools, the Azim Lab aims to develop more standardized, unbiased, high-throughput approaches to piecing together the neural underpinnings of movement–especially skilled motions like goal-directed reaching and grasping. His findings could help to clarify how disease or injury disrupts the normal execution of movement, paving the way for improved diagnosis and treatment.
Rudy Behnia, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Neuroscience, Columbia University-Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute, New York, NY
State-dependent Neuromodulation of a Circuit for Motion Vision
Dr. Behnia studies the dynamic processes devoted to vision, exploring how the brain’s visual system drives behaviors and helps animals and humans survive and thrive in complex environments teeming with sensory stimuli. Using the fruit fly model system, Behnia’s laboratory investigates how animals perceive and adapt their behavior to changing environments through a variety of complementary techniques, including in vivo single cell patch-clamp recordings, two-photon activity-imaging, optogenetic and behavioral paradigms. A particular focus of Dr. Behnia’s McKnight-funded work will be exploring how internal states such as attention alter the brain’s sensitivity to certain stimuli, research that could shed new light on the role neuromodulators play in changing the function of neural circuits. This research may also reveal new targets for therapeutic strategies for disorders such as depression and ADHD.
Felice Dunn, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology, University of California, San Francisco
The Establishment and Regulation of Rod and Cone Vision
Dr. Dunn’s research is focused on finding out how visual information is parsed and processed in the retinal circuit, knowledge that could open new avenues for restoring lost vision. While many retinal diseases that lead to vision loss or blindness begin with the degeneration of photoreceptors, how disease progresses to affect postsynaptic neurons is still largely unknown. In her lab, Dunn deploys temporally-controlled transgenic ablation of photoreceptors, functional recordings and imaging of single cells, and gene-editing methods to investigate the retina’s remaining cells and synapses. Her work will help to uncover how the remaining circuit changes its structure and function in a degenerating retina, and may help reveal potential therapies to halt or prevent the loss of vision.
John Tuthill, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Physiology and Biophysics, University of Washington, Seattle
Proprioceptive Feedback Control of Locomotion in Drosophila
Proprioception–the body’s sense of self-movement and position–is critical, for the effective control of movement, yet little is known about how the brain’s motor circuits integrate this feedback to guide future movements. Dr. Tuthill’s lab is working to unlock the essence of motor learning in the brain by investigating how walking fruit flies learn to avoid obstacles and navigate unpredictable environments, assessing the role of sensory feedback in motor control by optogenetically manipulating proprioceptor activity. A deeper understanding of proprioceptive feedback control has the potential to transform the way in which we understand and treat movement disorders.
Mingshan Xue, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX
Function and Mechanism of Input-specific Homeostatic Synaptic Plasticity In Vivo
Navigating complex environments and changing internal states, the healthy brain maintains a constant balance between excitation and inhibition (often characterized as E/I ratio) that’s remarkably stable. How does the brain maintain this balance? Dr. Xue’s laboratory will explore this question, combining molecular, genetic, electrophysiological, optogenetic, imaging, and anatomical approaches to determine whether homeostatic plasticity regulates synapses in an input-specific manner in vivo, thereby maintaining neuronal activity levels and functional response properties. Gaining a deeper understanding of how the normal brain copes with perturbations can pave the way for interventions to treat neurological diseases that disrupt the brain’s natural balance.
Brad Zuchero, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery, Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA
Mechanisms of Myelin Membrane Growth and Wrapping
The loss of myelin—the fatty electrical insulator around neuronal axons—can cause severe motor and cognitive disabilities in patients with multiple sclerosis and other diseases of the central nervous system. Building a “textbook model” of the complex mechanisms that drive myelin formation is now the goal of Dr. Zuchero’s research lab at Stanford University. Combining innovative approaches including super-resolution microscopy, genome editing with CRISPR/Cas, and novel genetic cytoskeletal tools devised in his own lab, Zuchero’s team will investigate how and why myelin wrapping requires the dramatic disassembly of the oligodendrocyte actin cytoskelton, a process that may reveal new targets or treatment paths for myelin regeneration and repair.
Martha Bagnall, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Neuroscience, Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine
Sensory and motor computations underlying postural control
Posture is crucial to normal function, but little is known about how the brain successfully routes sensory signals about orientation, movement and gravity through the spinal cord to keep the body “right side up.” Dr. Bagnall’s lab studies how animals maintain posture by focusing on the vestibular system of the zebrafish, a model organism with a spinal cord remarkably similar to limbed mammals. In early development, the spinal cords of larval zebrafish are transparent, providing researchers a valuable glimpse at the diverse populations of neurons activated during different types of movements. By learning more about how these distinct premotor pathways are recruited during postural behaviors—allowing animals to adjust to changes in roll and pitch—Bagnall’s research may reveal new discoveries about the complex neural connections that govern equivalent behavior in humans. Her work could also inform the development of devices that can help people regain their balance and posture, and improve the lives of people whose balance has been impaired by injury or disease.
Stephen Brohawn, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Neurobiology, Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, University of California, Berkeley
Mechanisms of biological force sensation
Dr. Brohawn studies life’s electrical system from a molecular and biophysical perspective, with a focus on finding the answer to the question “How do we feel?” The nervous system’s capacity to sense mechanical force is one of the foundations of hearing and balance, but science hasn’t yet revealed the protein machinery that converts mechanical forces into electrical signals. Using a range of approaches from X-ray crystallography to cryo-electron microscopy, Brohawn’s lab takes a “bottom up” approach to the question, capturing atomic resolution snapshots of the membrane proteins when at rest and under force. Gaining an understanding of how hearing and balance work on a detailed molecular level may someday form the basis for new therapies to improve the lives of individuals who’ve experienced auditory or vestibular loss of function.
Mehrdad Jazayeri, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology/McGovern Institute of Brain Research
Thalamocortical mechanisms of flexible motor timing
Dr. Jazayeri studies how the brain keeps track of time by investigating the neural dynamics that allow us to anticipate, measure, and reproduce time intervals. From making conversation, to learning music, to playing a sport, timing is critical to cognitive and motor function, but the underlying computational principles and neural mechanisms of timing remain largely unknown. To explore this important building block of cognition, Jazayeri taught monkeys to reproduce time intervals, as if keeping the beat in music—an approach he continues to develop as his research lab works to uncover the neural basis of sensorimotor integration, a key component of deliberation and probabilistic reasoning. His research could advance our understanding of the cognitive flexibility that allows us to pay attention, adapt to new information, and make inferences, while identifying major targets for a variety of cognitive disorders.
Katherine Nagel, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, New York University School of Medicine/Neuroscience Institute
Neural mechanisms underlying olfactory search behavior in drosophila melanogaster
Dr. Nagel explores how fruit flies combine sensory information to find their way to food–-a simple behavior that may shed new light on the complex neural circuitry that allows the brain to turn sensations into action. A model organism with a simple brain and a complex capacity to make “decisions on the wing,” fruit flies turn upwind when they meet the fluctuating plume of an attractive odor, and search downwind when the odor is lost. To find a food source, flies must integrate olfactory, mechanical, and visual inputs, and transform these inputs into meaningful spatial decisions. Nagel’s lab uses quantitative behavioral analysis, electrophysiology, genetic manipulations, and computational modeling to discover how this integration works at a single cell level, shedding light on one of the brain’s most ancient guidance systems. One of the principal investigators in a National Science Foundation initiative called “Cracking the Olfactory Code,” Nagel’s research may advance neuroscience in new directions, from revealing more about how the human brain computes in space and time, to helping inform the future development of olfactory robots.
Matthew Pecot, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Harvard Medical School
Defining the transcriptional logic underlying neural network assembly in the Drosophila visual system
The precision with which neurons form synaptic connections is fundamental to animal behavior, yet how neurons identify correct synaptic partners amidst the staggering cellular complexity of the nervous system is unclear. To identify molecular principles underlying synaptic specificity the Pecot lab studies neural connectivity in the fly visual system, which comprises well-defined genetically accessible neuron types with known patterns of synaptic connectivity. Based on their research, they propose that correct synaptic partners express a common master regulator protein which controls the expression of molecules that instruct their synaptic connectivity. Ensuring that neurons destined to form connections express the same master regulator may provide a simple strategy for establishing precise neural connections. With a growing body of evidence identifying defects in neural connectivity as a driver in neurological disease, Dr. Pecot’s research could inspire therapeutic strategies focused on rewiring damaged neural circuits in affected individuals.
Michael Yartsev, Ph.D., Bioengineering Assistant Professor, Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, University of California, Berkeley
Neurobiological basis of vocal production learning in the developing mammalian brain
Language lies at the heart of what it means to be human. We possess a capacity for vocal learning that we share with just a few mammalian species. Dr. Yartsev is embarking on the first detailed investigation of vocal production learning in the mammalian brain, using Egyptian fruit bats to help answer the question of what it is about our brains that allows us to learn language. Using such novel technologies as wireless neural recording, optogenetics, imaging and anatomical mapping, Yartsev and the team hope to decipher the neural mechanisms that underlie the brain’s ability to acquire language. Yartsev’s work could also yield new insights into childhood speech delays, aphasia, and other language loss and development disorders.
Mark Andermann, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School
A pathway for hunger modulation of learned food cue responses in insular cortex
Dr. Andermann’s research addresses the ways the brain notices and acts upon images relating to food, especially when an individual is hungry. His work is driven by the urgent societal need to develop comprehensive therapies for obesity. Humans pay attention to the things their bodies tell them they need. Over-attention to food cues, which results in seeking more food than is needed, can persist in individuals suffering from obesity or eating disorders, even when satiated. Andermann’s lab developed a method involving two-photon calcium imaging through a periscope to study hundreds of neurons in a mouse brain, and found that the brain’s response to images associated with food differed depending on whether the mouse was hungry or sated. The Andermann lab is collaborating with Dr. Brad Lowell’s lab—experts in the brain circuitry controlling hunger—to study the insular cortex in search of ways to prevent cravings for the wrong foods in obese subjects.
John Cunningham, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Statistics, Columbia University
The computational structure of populations of neurons in the motor cortex
Dr. Cunningham’s primary research mission is to advance the scientific understanding of the neural basis of complex behaviors. For example, better understanding the brain’s role in generating voluntary movements can potentially help millions of people with motor impairments due to disease and injury. Cunningham is part of a small but growing field of statisticians applying statistical and machine learning techniques to neuroscience research. He combines aspects of mathematics, statistics, and computer science to extract meaningful insights from massive datasets generated in experiments. He aims to bridge the gap between data recording and scientific payoff, seeking to create analytical tools he and other researchers can harness. Analysis methods capable of handling the massive datasets generated are essential to the field, particularly as researchers record evermore data of increasing complexity.
Roozbeh Kiani, M.D., Ph.D., Assistant Professor, New York University, Center for Neural Science
Hierarchical decision processes that operate over distinct time scales underlie choice and changes in strategy
Dr. Kiani is researching how adaptive behavior occurs in decision making. Decisions are guided by available information and strategies that link information to action. Following a bad outcome, two potential sources of error—flawed strategy and poor information—must be distinguished to improve future performance. This process depends on interaction of several cortical and subcortical areas that collectively represent sensory information, retrieve relevant memories, and plan and execute desired actions. Dr. Kiani’s research focuses on the neuronal mechanisms that implement these processes, especially how sources of information are integrated, how relevant information is selected and routed flexibly from one brain area to another, and how the decision-making process gives rise to subjective beliefs about anticipated outcomes. His research could have long-term implications for the study of neurological disorders that disrupt decision-making processes such as schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and Alzheimer’s.
Yuki Oka, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Biology, California Institute of Technology
Peripheral and Central Mechanisms of Body Fluid Regulation
Dr. Oka’s lab studies neural mechanisms underlying body fluid homeostasis, the fundamental function that regulates the balance between water and salt in the body. His team aims to understand how peripheral and central signals regulate water drinking behavior. Toward this goal, his research team will combine physiology and neural manipulation tools to define the specific brain circuits that play an essential role in controlling thirst. They will then examine how the activities of those circuits are modulated by external water signals. His work could have significant implications for new clinical treatments of appetite-related disorders.
Abigail Person, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Physiology and Biophysics, University of Colorado Denver
Circuit mechanisms of cerebellar motor correction
Movement is central to all behaviors, yet the brain’s motor control centers are barely understood. Dr. Person’s work explores how the brain makes movements precise. Person’s lab is particularly interested in an ancient part of the brain called the cerebellum, asking how its signals correct ongoing motor commands. The cerebellum has been particularly attractive for circuit analysis because its layers and cell types are very well defined. However, its output structures, called the cerebellar nuclei, violate this rule and are much more heterogeneous and hence, much more confusing. Using a variety of physiological, optogenetic, anatomical and behavioral techniques, her research aims to untangle the mix of signals in the nuclei to interpret how it contributes to motor control. Person anticipates that her research may offer clinicians insight into therapeutic strategies for people with cerebellar disease, and could potentially contribute to the class of technologies that use neural signals to control prosthetic limbs.
Wei Wei, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Neurobiology, University of Chicago
Dendritic processing of visual motion in the retina
Dr. Wei’s research seeks to understand the neural mechanisms of motion detection in the retina. The earliest stage of visual processing by the brain occurs in the retina, the place where photons from the physical world are transformed into neural signals in the eye. Much more than a camera, the retina functions like a little computer that begins to process visual inputs into multiple streams of information before relaying them to higher visual centers in the brain. By current estimates there are more than 30 neural circuits in the retina, each computing a different feature, such as aspects of motion, color and contrast. Dr. Wei’s lab is using patterns of light to study how the retina determines the direction of image motion. Her work will uncover the rules of visual processing at the subcellular and synaptic level, and provide insights into the general principles of neural computation by the brain.
Robert Froemke, NYU School of Medicine
Neural Circuitry and Plasticity for Control of Mammalian Social Behavior
Ryan Hibbs, UT Southwestern Medical Center
Structure and Mechanism of Neuronal Acetylcholine Receptors
Song-Hai Shi, Ph.D., Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
Clonal production and organization of interneurons in the mammalian neocortex
Diana Bautista, Ph.D., University of California Berkeley
Molecular and Cellular Mechanisms of Mammalian Touch and Pain
James Bisley, Ph.D., University of California Los Angeles
The Role of Posterior Parietal Cortex in Guiding Attention and Eye Movements
Nathaniel Daw, Ph.D., New York University
Decision Making in Structured, Sequential Tasks: Combining Computational, Behavioral, and Neuroscientific Approaches
Alapakkam Sampath, Ph.D., University of Southern California
The Role of Optimal Processing in Setting Sensory Threshold
Tatyana Sharpee, Ph.D., Salk Institute for Biological Studies
Discrete Representation of Visual Shapes in the Brain
Kausik Si, Ph.D., Stowers Institute for Medical Research
Role of Prion-like Molecule in Persistence of Memory
Jeremy Dasen, Ph.D., New York University School of Medicine
Mechanisms of Synaptic Specificity in the Vertebrate Spinal Cord
Wesley Grueber, Ph.D., Columbia University Medical Center
Dendritic Field Patterning by Attractive and Repulsive Cues
Greg Horwitz, Ph.D., University of Washington
Magnocellular Contributions to Color Processing
Coleen Murphy, Ph.D., Princeton University
Molecular Characterization of Long-Term Memory Maintenance with Age
Bence Olveczky, Ph.D., Harvard University
Functional Organization of Neural Circuits Underlying Sensorimotor Learning
Liam Paninski, Ph.D., Columbia University
Using Advanced Statistical Techniques to Decipher Population Codes
Bijan Pesaran, Ph.D., New York University
Deciding Where to Look and Where to Reach
Stephen A. Baccus, Ph.D., Stanford University Medical School
Functional Circuitry of Neural Coding in the Retina
Karl A. Deisseroth, M.D., Ph.D., Stanford University Medical School
Multi-Channel Fast Optical Interrogation of Living Neural Circuitry
Gilbert Di Paolo, Ph.D., Columbia University Medical Center
A Novel Approach for Rapid Chemically-Induced Modulation of PIP2 Metabolism at the Synapse
Adrienne Fairhall, Ph.D., University of Washington
Intrinsic Contributions to Adaptive Computation and Gain Control
Maurice A. Smith, M.D., Ph.D., Harvard University
A Computational Model of Interacting Adaptive Processes to Explain Properties of Short- and Long-term Motor Learning
Fan Wang, Ph.D., Duke University Medical Center
Molecular and Genetic Analyses of Mammalian Touch Sensation
Rachel Wilson, Ph.D., Harvard Medical School
The Biophysical and Molecular Basis of Central Synaptic Transmission in Drosophila
Thomas Clandinin, Ph.D., Stanford University Medical School
How are Salient Visual Cues Captured by Changes in Neuronal Activity?
James DiCarlo, M.D., Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Neuronal Mechanisms Underlying Object Recognition During Natural Viewing
Florian Engert, Ph.D., Harvard University
The Neuronal Basis of Visually Induced Behavior in the Larval Zebrafish
Youxing Jiang, Ph.D., University of Texas, Southwestern Medical Center
Molecular Mechanisms of Ion Selectivity in CNG Channels
Tirin Moore, Ph.D., Stanford University Medical School
Mechanisms of Visuospatial Attention and Working Memory
Hongjun Song, Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Mechanisms Regulating Synaptic Integration of Newly Generated Neurons in the Adult Brain
Elke Stein, Ph.D., Yale University
Converting Netrin-1-Mediated Attraction to Repulsion through Intracellular Crosstalk
Athanossios Siapas, Ph.D., California Institute of Technology
Cortico-Hippocampal Interactions and Memory Formation
Nirao Shah, M.D., Ph.D., University of California, San Francisco
Representation of Sexually Dimorphic Behaviors in the Brain
Aravinthan Samuel, Ph.D., Harvard University
A Biophysical Approach to Worm Behavioral Neuroscience
Bernardo Sabatini, M.D., Ph.D., Harvard Medical School
Synaptic Regulation by Neuromodulatory Systems
Miriam Goodman, Ph.D., Stanford University
Understanding the Force-Sensing Machinery of Touch Receptor Neurons
Matteo Carandini, Ph.D., The Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute
Dynamics of Population Response in Visual Cortex
Ricardo Dolmetsch, Ph.D., Stanford University
Functional Analysis of the Calcium Channel Proteome
Loren Frank, Ph.D., University of California, San Francisco
The Neural Correlates of Learning in the Hippocampal – Cortical Circuit
Rachelle Gaudet, Ph.D., Harvard University
Structural Studies of Temperature-sensing TRP Ion Channels
Z. Josh Huang, Ph.D., Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Molecular Mechanisms Underlying the Subcellular Targeting of GABAergic Synapses
Kang Shen, M.D., Ph.D., Stanford University
Understanding the Molecular Code for Target Specificity in Synapse Formation
David Zenisek, Ph.D., Yale University
Investigation of the Role of the Synaptic Ribbon in Exocytosis
Michael Brainard, Ph.D. University of California, San Francisco
Behavioral and Neural Mechanisms of Plasticity in Adult Birdsong
Joshua Gold, Ph.D. University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
The Neural Basis of Decisions that Flexibly Link Sensation and Action
Jacqueline Gottlieb, Ph.D. Columbia University
Neural Substrates of Vision and Attention in Monkey Posterior Parietal Cortex
Zhigang He, Ph.D. Children’s Hospital
Exploring the Mechanisms of Axon Regeneration Failure in the Adult Control Nervous System
Kristin Scott, Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley
Taste Representations in the Drosophila Brain
Aaron DiAntonio, M.D., Ph.D., Washington University
Genetic Analysis of Synaptic Growth
Marla Feller, Ph.D., University of California, San Diego
Homeostatic Regulation of Spontaneous Activity in the Developing Mammalian Retina
Bharathi Jagadeesh, Ph.D., University of Washington
Plasticity of Object and Scene Selective Neurons in the Primate Inferotemporal Cortex
Bingwei Lu, Ph.D., The Rockefeller University
A Genetic Approach to Neural Stem Cell Behavior
Philip Sabes, Ph.D., University of California, San Francisco
The Neural Mechanisms and Computational Principles of Visuomotor Adaptation in Reaching
W. Martin Usrey, Ph.D., University of California, Davis
Functional Dynamics of Feedforward and Feedback Pathways for Vision
Daniel Feldman, Ph.D., University of California, San Diego
Synaptic Basis for Whisker Map Plasticity in Rat Barrel Cortex
Kelsey Martin, M.D., Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles
Communication Between the Synapse and the Nucleus During Long-lasting Synaptic Plasticity
Daniel Minor, Jr., Ph.D., University of California, San Francisco
High-resolution Studies of Ion Channel Regulation
John Reynolds, Ph.D., The Salk Institute for Biological Studies
Neural Mechanisms of Visual Feature Integration
Leslie Vosshall, Ph.D., The Rockefeller University
The Molecular Biology of Odor Recognition in Drosophila
Anthony Wagner, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Mechanisms of Memory Formation: Prefrontal Contributions to Episodic Encoding
John Assad, Ph.D., Harvard Medical School
Long- and Short-term Memory Effects on the Encoding of Visual Motion in Parietal Cortex
Eduardo Chichilnisky, Ph.D., The Salk Institute for Biological Studies
Color and Motion Perception: Ensemble Signaling by Identified Cell Types in Primate Retina
Frank Gertler, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Role of Cytoskeletal Regulatory Proteins in Axon Outgrowth and Guidance
Jeffry Isaacson, Ph.D., University of California, San Diego
Synaptic Mechanisms of Central Olfactory Circuits
Richard Krauzlis, Ph.D., The Salk Institute for Biological Studies
Coordination of Voluntary Eye Movements by the Superior Colliculus
H. Sebastian Seung, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Memory and Multistability in Biological Networks
Jian Yang, Ph.D., Columbia University
Potassium Channel Permeation and Gating Studied with Novel Backbone Mutations
Michael Ehlers, M.D., Ph.D., Duke University Medical Center
Molecular Regulation of NMDA Receptors
Jennifer Raymond, Ph.D., Stanford University School of Medicine
In Vivo Physiological Analysis of Mutations that Affect Cerebellum-dependent Learning
Fred Rieke, Ph.D., University of Washington
Gain Control and Feature Selectivity of Retinal Ganglion Cells
Henk Roelink, Ph.D., University of Washington
Sonic Hedgehog Signal Transduction in Brain Malformations Induced by Cyclopamine
Alexander Schier, Ph.D., New York University School of Medicine
Mechanisms of Forebrain Patterning
Paul Slesinger, Ph.D., The Salk Institute for Biological Studies
Identification of Molecular Interactions Involved in the G Protein Regulation of Potassium Channels
Michael Weliky, Ph.D., University of Rochester
The Role of Correlated Neuronal Activity in Visual Cortical Development
Paul Garrity, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Axon Targeting in the Drosophila Visual System
Jennifer Groh, Ph.D., Dartmouth College
Neural Coordinate Transformations
Phyllis Hanson, M.D., Ph.D., Washington University School of Medicine
The Role of Molecular Chaperones in Presynaptic Function
Eduardo Perozo, Ph.D., University of Virginia School of Medicine
High-resolution Structural Studies of the K+ Channel Pore
Wendy Suzuki, Ph.D., New York University
Spatial Functions of the Macaque Parahippocampal Cortex
Ulrike I. Gaul, Ph.D., The Rockefeller University
Cellular and Molecular Aspects of Axon Guidance in a Simple in Vivo System
Liqun Luo, Ph.D., Stanford University School of Medicine
Molecular Mechanisms of Dendrite Development: Studies of GTPases Rac and Cdc42
Mark Mayford, Ph.D., University of California, San Diego
Regulated Genetic Control of Synaptic Plasticity, Learning, and Memory
Peter Mombaerts, M.D., Ph.D., The Rockefeller University
Mechanisms of Axon Guidance in the Olfactory System
Samuel L. Pfaff, Ph.D., The Salk Institute for Biological Studies
Molecular Control of Vertebrate Motor Neuron Axon Targeting
David Van Vactor, Ph.D., Harvard Medical School
Analysis of Genes that Control Motor Axon Guidance in Drosophila
Paul W. Glimcher, Ph.D., New York University
Neurobiological Basis of Selective Attention
Ali Hemmati-Brivanlou, Ph.D., The Rockefeller University
Molecular Aspects of Vertebrate Neurogenesis
Donald C. Lo, Ph.D., Duke University Medical Center
Neurotrophin Regulation of Synaptic Plasticity
Earl K. Miller, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Integrated Functions of Prefrontal Cortex
Tito A. Serafini, Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley
Isolation and Characterization of Growth Cone Targeting Molecules
Jerry C.P. Yin, Ph.D., Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
CREB Phosphorylation and the Formation of Long-term Memory in Drosophila
Toshinori Hoshi, Ph.D., University of Iowa
Gating Mechanisms of Voltage-dependent Potassium Channels
Alex L. Kolodkin, Ph.D., The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Molecular Mechanisms of Growth Cone Guidance: Semaphorin Function During Neurodevelopment
Michael L. Nonet, Ph.D., Washington University School of Medicine
Genetic Analysis of Neuromuscular Junction Development
Mani Ramaswami, Ph.D., University of Arizona
Genetic Analysis of Presynaptic Mechanisms
Michael N. Shadlen, M.D., Ph.D., University of Washington
Sensory Integration and Working Memory
Alcino J. Silva, Ph.D., Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Cellular Mechanisms Supporting Memory Formation in Mice
Rita J. Balice-Gordon, Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania
Activity Dependent and Independent Mechanisms Underlying Synapse Formation and Maintenance
Mark K. Bennett, Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley
Regulation of the Synaptic Vesicle Docking and Fusion Machinery by Protein Phosphorylation
David S. Bredt, M.D., Ph.D., University of California, San Francisco
Physiologic Functions of Nitric Oxide in Developing and Regenerating Neurons
David J. Linden, Ph.D., The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Cellular Substrates of Information Storage in the Cerebellum
Richard D. Mooney, Ph.D., Duke University Medical Center
Cellular Mechanisms of Avian Vocal Learning and Memory
Charles J. Weitz, M.D., Ph.D., Harvard Medical School
Molecular Biology of the Mammalian Circadian Pacemaker
Ben Barres, M.D., Ph.D., Stanford University School of Medicine
Development and Function of Glia
Allison J. Doupe, M.D., Ph.D., University of California, San Francisco
A Neural Circuit Specialized for Vocal Learning in Songbirds
Ehud Y. Isacoff, Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley
Molecular Studies on K+ Channel Phosphorylation in Vertebrate Central Neurons
Susan K. McConnell, Ph.D., Stanford University School of Medicine
Isolation of Layer-specific Genes from Mammalian Cerebral Cortex
John J. Ngai, Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley
Analysis of the Topography of Specific Olfactory Neurons and the Coding of Olfactory Information
Wade G. Regehr, Ph.D., Harvard Medical School
The Role of Presynaptic Calcium in Plasticity at Central Synapses
Ethan Bier, Ph.D., University of California, San Diego
Molecular Genetics of Neurogenesis
Linda D. Buck, Ph.D., Harvard Medical School
Neuronal Identity and Information Coding in the Mammalian Olfactory System
Gian Garriga, Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley
Cell Interactions in the Outgrowth of the C.elegans HSN Axons
Roderick MacKinnon, M.D., Harvard Medical School
Subunit Interactions in Potassium Channel Gating
Nipam H. Patel, Ph.D., Carnegie Institution of Washington
The Role of Gooseberry During Drosophila Neurogenesis
Gabriele V. Ronnett, M.D., Ph.D., The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
The Mechanisms of Olfactory Signal Transduction
Daniel Y. Ts’o, Ph.D., The Rockefeller University
Optical Imaging of Neuronal Mechanisms of Visual Behavior
Hollis T. Cline, Ph.D., University of Iowa Medical School
Regulation of Neuronal Growth by Neurotransmitter and Protein Kinases
Gilles J. Laurent, Ph.D., California Institute of Technology
Compartmentalization of Local Neurons in Insect Sensory-motor Networks
Ernest G. Peralta, Ph.D., Harvard University
Muscarinic Acetylcholine Receptor Signaling Pathways in Neuronal Cells
William M. Roberts, Ph.D., University of Oregon
Ion Channels and Intracellular Calcium in Hair Cells
Thomas L. Schwarz, Ph.D., Stanford University School of Medicine
The Genetics of VAMP and p65: A Dissection of Transmitter Release in Drosophila
Marc T. Tessier-Lavigne, Ph.D., University of California, San Francisco
Purification, Cloning, and Characterization of a Chemoattractant that Guides Developing Axons in the Vertebrate Central Nervous System
John R. Carlson, Ph.D., Yale University School of Medicine
Molecular Organization of the Drosophila Olfactory System
Michael E. Greenberg, Ph.D., Harvard Medical School
Electrical Stimulation of Gene Expression in Neurons
David J. Julius, Ph.D., University of California, San Francisco
Molecular Genetics of Serotonin Receptor Function
Robert C. Malenka, M.D., Ph.D., University of California, San Francisco
Mechanisms Underlying Long-term Potentiation in the Hippocampus
John D. Sweatt, Ph.D., Baylor College of Medicine
Molecular Mechanisms for LTP in the CA1 Region of Rat Hippocampus
Kai Zinn, Ph.D., California Institute of Technology
Molecular Genetics of Axon Guidance in the Drosophila Embryo
Utpal Banerjee, Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles
Neurogenetics of R7 Cell Development in Drosophila
Paul Forscher, Ph.D., Yale University School of Medicine
Signal Transduction at the Neuronal Membrane-cytoskeletal Interface
Michael D. Mauk, Ph.D., University of Texas Medical School
The Role of Protein Kinases in Synaptic Transmission and Plasticity
Eric J. Nestler, M.D., Ph.D., Yale University School of Medicine
Molecular Characterization of the Locus Coeruleus
Barbara E. Ranscht, Ph.D., La Jolla Cancer Research Foundation
Molecular Analysis of Chick Cell Surface Glycoproteins and Their Role in Nerve Fiber Growth
Michael Bastiani, Ph.D., University of Utah
Watching Growth Cones Make Choices in the Face of Adversity
Craig E. Jahr, Ph.D., Oregon Health & Science University
Molecular Mechanisms of Excitatory Synaptic Transmission
Christopher R. Kintner, Ph.D., The Salk Institute for Biological Studies
Molecular Basis of Neural Induction in Amphibian Embryos
Jonathan A. Raper, Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania Medical Center
Indentification of Molecules Involved in the Control of Growth Cone Motility
Lorna W. Role, Ph.D., Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons
Modulation of Neuronal Acetylcholine Receptors
Charles Zuker, Ph.D., University of California, San Diego
Signal Transduction in the Visual System
Aaron P. Fox, Ph.D., University of Chicago
Hippocampal Calcium Channels: Biophysical, Pharmacological, and Functional Properties
F. Rob Jackson, Ph.D., Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology
Molecular Basis of Endogenous Timing Mechanisms
Dennis D.M. O’Leary, Ph.D., Washington University School of Medicine
Studies of Neocortical Development Focused on Areal Differentiation
Tim Tully, Ph.D., Brandeis University
Molecular Cloning of the Drosophila Short-term Memory Mutant Amnesiac and a Search for Long-term Memory Mutants
Patricia A. Walicke, M.D., Ph.D., University of California, San Diego
Hippocampal Neurons and Fibroblast Growth Factor
Christine E. Holt, Ph.D., University of California, San Diego
Axonal Pathfinding in the Vertebrate Embryo
Stephen J. Peroutka, M.D., Ph.D., Stanford University School of Medicine
Novel Anxiolytic Interactions with Central Serotonin Receptor Subtypes
Randall N. Pittman, Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Biochemical, Immunological, and Video Analysis of Neurite Outgrowth
S. Lawrence Zipursky, Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles
A Molecular Genetic Approach to Neural Connectivity
Sarah W. Bottjer, Ph.D., University of Southern California
Neuronal Mechanisms of Vocal Development
S. Marc Breedlove, Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley
Andogenic Influences on the Specificity of Neural Connections
Jane Dodd, Ph.D., Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons
Cellular Mechanisms of Sensory Transduction in Cutaneous Afferent Neurons
Haig S. Keshishian, Ph.D., Yale University School of Medicine
Determination and Differentiation of Identified Peptidergic Neurons in the Embryonic CNS
Paul E. Sawchenko, Ph.D., The Salk Institute for Biological Studies
Steroid-dependent Plasticity in the Neuropeptide Expression
Ronald L. Davis, Ph.D., Baylor College of Medicine
Cyclic AMP System Genes and Memory in Drosophila
Scott E. Fraser, Ph.D., University of California, Irvine
Theoretical and Experimental Studies on Nerve Patterning and Synaptic Competition
Michael R. Lerner, M.D., Ph.D., Yale University School of Medicine
Memory and Olfaction
William D. Matthew, Ph.D., Harvard Medical School
An Immunological and Biochemical Analysis of Proteoglycans in the Nervous Systemthe Embryonic CNS
Jonathan D. Victor, M.D., Ph.D., Cornell University Medical College
An Evoked-response Analysis of Central Visual Processing in Health and Disease
Richard A. Andersen, Ph.D., The Salk Institute for Biological Studies
Visual-spatial Properties of the Light-sensitive Neurons of the Posterior Parietal Cortex in Monkeys
Clifford B. Saper, M.D., Ph.D., Washington University School of Medicine
Organization of Cortical Arousal Systems
Richard H. Scheller, Ph.D., Stanford University School of Medicine
Investigations of the Function, Organization, and Regulated Expression of Neuropeptide Genes in Aplysia
Mark Allen Tanouye, Ph.D., California Institute of Technology
The Molecular Biology of Potassium Channel Genes in Drosophila
George R. Uhl, M.D., Ph.D., Massachusetts General Hospital
Memory-related Neurotransmitter Systems: Clinicopathological Correlation and Regulation of Specific Gene Expression
Bradley E. Alger, Ph.D., University of Maryland School of Medicine
Depression of Inhibition May Contribute to Potentiation in the Studies in the Rat Hippocampal Slice
Ralph J. Greenspan, Ph.D., Princeton University
Genetic and Immunological Studies of Cell Surface Molecules and Their Role in Neuronal Development in the Mouse
Thomas M. Jessell, Ph.D., Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons
The Role of Neuropeptides in Sensory Transmission and Nociception
Bruce H. Wainer, M.D., Ph.D., University of Chicago
Cortical Cholinergic Innervation in Health and Disease
Peter J. Whitehouse, M.D., Ph.D., The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
The Anatomical/Pathological Basis of the Memory Deficits in Dementia
David G. Amaral, Ph.D., The Salk Institute for Biological Studies
Studies of the Development and Connectivity of the Hippocampal
Robert J. Bloch, Ph.D., University of Maryland School of Medicine
Macromolecules Involved in Synapse Formation
Stanley M. Goldin, Ph.D., Harvard Medical School
Reconstitution, Purification, and Immunocytochemical Localization of Neuronal Ion Transport Proteins of Mammalian Brain
Stephen G. Lisberger, Ph.D., University of California, San Francisco
Plasticity of the Primate Vestibulo-ocular Reflex
Lee L. Rubin, Ph.D., The Rockefeller University
Regulatory Mechanisms in Nerve-Muscle Synapse Formation
Theodore W. Berger, Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh
Brain Structures Involved in Human Amnesia: Study of the Hippocampal-Subicular-Cingulate Cortical System
Thomas H. Brown, Ph.D., City of Hope Research Institute
Quantal Analysis of Synaptic Potentiation in Hippocampal Neurons
Steven J. Burden, Ph.D., Harvard Medical School
The Synaptic Basal Lamina at Developing and Regenerating Neuromuscular Synapses
Corey S. Goodman, Ph.D., Stanford University School of Medicine
The Differentiation, Modification, and Death of Single Cells During Neuronal Development
William A. Harris, Ph.D., University of California, San Diego
Axonal Guidance and Impulse Activity in Development
Robert P. Elde, Ph.D., University of Minnesota Medical School
Immunohistochemical Studies of Limbic, Forebrain, and Hypothalmic Peptidergic Pathways
Yuh-Nung Jan, Ph.D., Harvard Medical School
Studies on Slow Potential Using Autonomic Ganglia as Model Systems
Eve Marder, Ph.D., Brandeis University
Neurotransmitter Mechanisms of Electrically Coupled Cells in a Simple System
James A. Nathanson, M.D., Ph.D., Yale University School of Medicine
Hormone Receptor Mechanisms in the Regulation of Cerebral Blood Flow and Cerebrospinal Fluid Circulation
Louis F. Reichardt, Ph.D., University of California, San Francisco
Genetic Investigations of Nerve Function in Culture
Linda M. Hall, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Role of Cholinergic Synapses in Learning and Memory
Charles A. Marotta, M.D., Ph.D., Harvard Medical School
Control of Brain Tubulin Synthesis During Development
Urs S. Rutishauser, Ph.D., The Rockefeller University
The Role of Cell-Cell Adhesion in Development of Neural Tissues
David C. Spray, Ph.D., Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Neural Control of Feeding in Navanax