The brain is a statistical inference engine that’s constantly learning from the past to interpret the future. To better understand its complex neural activity patterns, we conduct experiments that analyze memory, learning and computation. Through methods including neuroimaging, high-throughput genomics, optical imaging, data modeling and metabolomics, we lay the foundation for advanced engineering techniques to be applied that mitigate disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, aphasia, epilepsy and depression, and help us understand how things happen in the brain — things like seizure onset, language formation and rapid learning.
Relying on models of the brain to understand functional connections, multisensory integration and impairment, we design and build systems and devices that interact with complex neural circuits. One focus is on optimizing deep brain stimulation (DBS) a technique used to treat a number of neurological disorders that presently involves exposing unaffected portions of the brain to great risk of damage. We aim to organize a refined protocol for deep brain stimulation that targets the area of the brain impacted by the disorder, and are using non-invasive ultrasound and electromagnetic methods to do so. We hope to maximize the therapeutic benefit of DBS for a range of conditions, including Parkinson’s disease, dystonia and essential tremor. We also explore robotic haptic interface to restore and rehabilitate human motor control.
Our nanotechnologists build advanced tools to interface with the brain. By developing technologies that read and write activity in individual neurons and specific neural populations, we’re uncovering how the activities of neurons and the circuits in the brain influence human behavior, and how damage to those circuits results in specific neural disorders. Through our research, we’re advancing treatment options for things like post-traumatic stress disorder by determining ways to selectively inhibit the recall of the long-term memory storage of traumatic events.
Just like a route outlined on a road map, neurons follow various pathways through the brain. We study complex functional entities of interconnected neurons called neural circuits to trace the circuitry of neural pathways—looking specifically at how types of brain cells influence perception, memory and behavior. By developing ways to non-invasively modulate neural activity using magnetic fields that can penetrate deep into the brain, the aim of our research is to potentially predict or prevent neural diseases or disorders.