Institute News Fall 2017 Issue 42

McGovern Institute to Welcome New Associate Member

Michael Halassa will join the McGovern Institute as an associate member in the fall of 2017. Photo: Vilcek Foundation
Michael Halassa will join the McGovern Institute as an associate member in the fall of 2017. Photo: Vilcek Foundation

Michael Halassa, who is currently a faculty member at New York University, joins MIT this fall. He will become an assistant professor in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, and will also join the McGovern Institute as an associate member.

Halassa’s research is focused on the neural control of behavior, in particular the neural basis of attention and executive control. To study these questions, he has developed behavioral models of executive function in mice, allowing him to probe the underlying neural circuitry using a combination of behavioral testing, neurophysiological recordings and genetic manipulations. One of his current areas of interest is the thalamus, traditionally considered a “relay station” for sending sensory information to the cortex, but which is also important for the control of executive function, as Halassa’s work has revealed.

Halassa, who is originally from Jordan, received his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania, and was a postdoc in the laboratory of Matt Wilson at MIT, while also doing a residency in psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital. He joined the NYU faculty in 2013. Halassa has received many awards, including the 2017 Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise, a national award given to immigrants who early in their careers have made “lasting contributions to American society through their extraordinary achievements in biomedical research.”

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