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Department of Biological Engineering
Ed Boyden, Ph.D.

Ed Boyden, Ph.D.

AT&T Career Development Professor of Media Arts and Sciences,
and the Department of Biological Engineering

Research group web site

E-mail: esb@media.mit.edu
Office: E15-421
Phone: (617) 324-3085
Fax: (617) 253-7035
Administrative Assistant: Lisa Lieberson (617) 253-9836
Courses: 20.452/9.422/MAS.881, 20.454/9.455/15.128/MAS.883, 20.309/2.673/6.122/MAS.402

Research Focus

Our brains and nervous systems mediate everything we perceive, feel, decide, and do -- and act as our ultimate interface to the world. An outstanding challenge for humanity is to understand the brain at a level of abstraction that enables us to engineer its function -- repairing pathology, augmenting cognition, and revealing insights into the human condition. We are inventing and applying tools to the analysis and engineering of brain circuits in both humans and in model systems, with a current focus on devising technologies for interfacing to specific circuit targets, and controlling the processing within. Our research will hopefully allow a better understanding of the nature of human existence, and the ability to engineer improvements thereupon.


  • A Wearable, Non-Invasive Brain Stimulator
    Despite promise in treating depression, headache, stroke, tinnitus, and other disorders, brain stimulation technology is bulky, power-hungry, and requires precision alignment with neural structures. We are applying modern engineering techniques to create a wearable brain stimulator that is safe and efficacious. 
  • Multiple-Color, Optical Activation and Silencing of Neurons
    We have engineered molecular sensitizers that make genetically specified neurons that can be activated by pulses of blue light, and silenced by pulses of yellow light. This revolutionary technology enables us to reprogram neural networks at the millisecond timescale, opening up the systematic analysis and engineering of the brain, as well as completely novel methods of therapy. We are applying molecular engineering, viral engineering, and optical engineering to make this dream a reality. 
  • Optical Brain Stimulation Interfaces
    Neural stimulation hardware has traditionally been either electrical or magnetic in nature. Our lab has recently developed molecular methods for making neurons able to be activated or silenced by blue and yellow light respectively. We are engineering optical systems for targetedly stimulating neurons precisely, even in dense tissue in the living brain. Our goal is to find ways to cure persistent psychiatric.

Selected Publications

Chow, B. Y.*, Han, X.*, Dobry, A. S., Qian, X., Chuong, A. S., Li, M., Henninger, M. A., Belfort, G. M., Lin, Y., Monahan, P. E., Boyden, E. S. (2010) High-performance genetically targetable optical neural silencing by light-driven proton pumps, Nature 463:98-102.

Han, X., Qian, X., Bernstein, J.G., Zhou, H.-H., Talei Franzesi, G., Stern, P., Bronson, R.T., Graybiel, A.M., Desimone, R., and Boyden, E.S. (2009) Millisecond-Timescale Optical Control of Neural Dynamics in the Nonhuman Primate Brain, Neuron 62(2): 191-198.

Han, X. and Boyden, E. S. (2007) Multiple-color optical activation, silencing, and desynchronization of neural activity, with single-spike temporal resolution, PLoS ONE 2(3): p. e299.

Boyden, E. S., Zhang, F., Bamberg, E., Nagel, G., Deisseroth, K. (2005) Millisecond-timescale, genetically-targeted optical control of neural activity, Nature Neuroscience 8(9):1263-1268.


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