Polina Anikeeva designs, synthesizes, and fabricates optoelectronic and magnetic devices to advance fundamental understanding and treatment of disorders of the nervous system. Anikeeva’s lab designs probes that are compatible with delicate neural tissue, but match the signaling complexity of neural circuits. In addition, her group develops magnetic nanoparticles for non-invasive neural stimulation. Most recently, Anikeeva is exploring the pathways connecting the brain to other body organ systems with the goal of advancing therapies and predictive diagnostics to achieve healthy minds in healthy bodies.
Together with her Bioelectronics group, Anikeeva develops multifunctional fibers that can deliver electrical, optical, and chemical signals to specified neurons. These flexible probes are also capable of recording neural activity and delivering genes into the brain and spinal cord.
Anikeeva also investigates ways of stimulating neurons wirelessly and with minimal invasiveness, using magnetic fields to activate nanoparticles injected into specific regions of the nervous system.
Anikeeva applies these tools to study brain circuits relevant to motivation, anxiety, social interactions, and to spinal circuits in the context of recovery following injury. The ultimate goal of Anikeeva’s research is to better understand, diagnose, and treat disorders of the nervous system.
A new research direction in the Anikeeva lab focuses on unraveling nervous system pathways between the gut and brain to in order to create improved therapeutic strategies for conditions including Parkinson’s, depression, anxiety and autism spectrum disorders. The lab’s platform of flexible fibers capable of probing and interrogating gut and brain pathways, together with other new physiological and computational approaches, is enabling the team to assess the bidirectional communication between the central nervous system and GI functions, both ex vivo and in vivo. The researchers will use these tools to pursue a mechanistic understanding of circuits, cells, and receptors governing gut-brain communication and develop new approaches that heal the nervous system.
Polina Anikeeva joined the McGovern Institute as an associate investigator in 2018, and is also a professor in the Department of Material Sciences and Engineering. She obtained her PhD at MIT in 2009 and was awarded tenure in 2017. She is a recipient of an NSF CAREER grant and DARPA Young Faculty Award among other fellowships.
Honors and Awards
NIH Pioneer Award, 2021
Margaret MacVicar Faculty Fellows, 2020
MITx Prize for Teaching and Learning in MOOCs, 2019
Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise, 2018
Junior Bose Teaching Award, School of Engineering, MIT, 2015
Technology Review Top Innovators Under 35, 2015
Outstanding Faculty Undergraduate Research (UROP) Mentor, MIT, 2014
Dresselhaus Fund Inaugural Award, 2013
DARPA Young Faculty Award, 2013
NSF CAREER Award, 2013
In this 2018 TEDx talk, Polina Anikeeva describes how differences in natural "brain hardware" and solid-state electronics lead to differences between human and artificial intelligence,and what challenges and opportunities stem from those differences.