Alan Jasanoff

Next Generation Brain Imaging

One of the greatest challenges of modern neuroscience is to relate high-level operations of the brain and mind to well-defined biological processes that arise from molecules and cells. The Jasanoff lab is creating a suite of experimental approaches designed to achieve this by permitting brain-wide dynamics of neural signaling and plasticity to be imaged for the first time, with molecular specificity. These potentially transformative approaches use novel probes detectable by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and other noninvasive readouts. The probes afford qualitatively new ways to study healthy and pathological aspects of integrated brain function in mechanistically-informative detail, in animals and possibly also people.

Mehrdad Jazayeri

The long-term objective of the Jazayeri lab is to develop a mathematical framework for understanding the link between the brain and the mind. To tackle this problem, the lab records and perturbs brain signals in animal models while they perform mental computations. They use normative theories, computational models, and artificial neural networks to understand the building blocks of the mind in terms of the mechanisms and algorithms implemented by the brain.

The lab currently focuses on the following mental computations: (1) anticipation and planning, (2) integration and inference, (3) hierarchical and counterfactual reasoning, and (4) mental navigation.

Michale Fee

Song Circuits

Michale Fee studies how the brain learns and generates complex sequential behaviors, focusing on the songbird as a model system. Birdsong is a complex behavior that young birds learn from their fathers and it provides an ideal system to study the neural basis of learned behavior. Because the parts of the bird’s brain that control song learning are closely related to human circuits that are disrupted in brain disorders such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease, Fee hopes the lessons learned from birdsong will provide new clues to the causes and possible treatment of these conditions.

Guoping Feng

Listening to Synapses

Guoping Feng studies the development and function of synapses – the interconnections between neurons – and their disruption in brain disorders. He uses molecular genetics combined with behavioral and electrophysiological methods to study the molecular components of the synapse and to understand how disruptions in these components can lead to neurodevelopmental and psychiatric disease. By understanding the molecular, cellular, and circuit changes underlying brain disorders, the Feng lab hopes one day to help develop new and effective treatments for brain disorders.

Virtual Tour of Feng Lab

 

Nancy Kanwisher

Elements of Perception

Nancy Kanwisher’s group studies the functional organization of the human brain as a window into the architecture of the mind. Over the last 20 years her lab has played a central role in the identification of several dozen regions of the cortex in humans that are engaged in particular components of perception and cognition. Many of these regions are very specifically engaged in a single mental function, such as perceiving faces, places, bodies, or words, or understanding the meanings of sentences or the mental states of others. Other regions bring together unexpected combinations of functions that may ultimately provide the strongest constraints on the computations conducted in those regions. Each of these regions is present in approximately the same location in virtually every normal person. 

Virtual Tour of Kanwisher Lab

 

Ann Graybiel

Probing the Deep Brain

Ann Graybiel studies the basal ganglia, forebrain structures that are profoundly important for normal brain function. Dysfunction in these regions is implicated in neurologic and neuropsychiatric disorders ranging from Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease to obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety and depression, and addiction. Graybiel’s laboratory is uncovering circuits underlying both the neural deficits related to these disorders, as well as the role that the basal ganglia play in guiding normal learning, motivation, and behavior.

Tomaso Poggio

Engineering Intelligence

Tomaso Poggio is one of the founders of computational neuroscience. He pioneered a model of the fly’s visual system as well as of human stereovision. His research has always been interdisciplinary, bridging brains and computers. It is now focused on the mathematics of deep learning and on the computational neuroscience of the visual cortex. Poggio also introduced using an approach called regularization theory to computational vision, made key contributions to the biophysics of computation and to learning theory, and developed an influential model of recognition in the visual cortex. Research in the Poggio lab is guided by the belief that understanding learning is at the heart of understanding both biological and artificial intelligence. Learning is therefore the route to understanding how the human brain works and for making intelligent machines.

John Gabrieli

Images of Mind

John Gabrieli’s goal is to understand the organization of memory, thought, and emotion in the human brain, and to use that understanding to help people live happier, more productive lives. By combining brain imaging with behavioral tests, he studies the neural basis of these abilities in human subjects. One important research theme is to understand the neural basis of learning in children and to identify ways that neuroscience could help to improve learning in the classroom. In collaboration with clinical colleagues, Gabrieli also seeks to use brain imaging to better understand, diagnose, and select treatments for neurological and psychiatric diseases.

Mark Harnett

Listening to Neurons

Mark Harnett studies how the biophysical features of individual neurons, including ion channels, receptors, and membrane electrical properties, endow neural circuits with the ability to process information and perform the complex computations that underlie behavior. As part of this work, the Harnett lab was the first to describe the physiological properties of human dendrites, the elaborate tree-like structures through which neurons receive the vast majority of their synaptic inputs. Harnett also examines how computations are instantiated in neural circuits to produce complex behaviors such as spatial navigation.

Virtual Tour of Harnett Lab

Martha Constantine-Paton

Developing Connections

Martha Constantine-Paton studied the formation and modification of synapses – the interconnections between neurons – in order to understand how experience shapes the wiring of the brain. By studying individual neurons in the visual system of developing animals, she showed that a class of molecules known as NMDA receptors plays an essential role in setting the strengths of synapses. NMDA receptors are thought to underlie many aspects of learning throughout life. Constantine-Paton also examined the role these receptors play in developmental disorders that have their origins in early life.