Undergraduate research opportunities are offered in this department under subject 9.UR, Undergraduate Research (graded on a P/D/F basis), 9.URG Undergraduate Research (letter grade), or for pay. Another research opportunity is 9.50, Research in Brain and Cognitive Sciences. This subject is offered for a letter grade, and counts for Institute General Laboratory credit. Students must get Prof. Schulz's approval before registering for 9.50. A written presentation of results, due the last day of classes, must be submitted to the faculty supervisor, Susan Lanza and to Prof. Schulz.
Prof. Edward Adelson, 46-4115, x3-0645, firstname.lastname@example.org
Visual perception by humans and machines, including motion perception, texture perception, and brightness perception. Image processing and image coding.
Prof. Mark Bear , 46-3301, x4-7002, email@example.com
Studies of synaptic plasticity in cerebral cortex and hippocampus.
Prof. Emilio Bizzi, 46-6189A, x3-5769 or x3-0771, firstname.lastname@example.org
Neural mechanisms subserving motor control and motor learning in vertebrates. Techniques used in my laboratory involve electrophysiological recordings from the cortex and subcortical structures, modeling, and studies with patients with neurological motor disorders.
Prof. Ed Boyden, E15-421, x4-3085, email@example.com
We are inventing new tools for analyzing and engineering brain circuits. For example, we have devised, often working in interdisciplinary collaborations, 'optogenetic' tools, which enable the activation and silencing of neural circuit elements with light, 3-D microfabricated neural interfaces that enable control and readout of neural activity, and robotic methods for automatically recording intracellular neural activity and performing high-throughput single-cell analyses in the living brain. We distribute tools as freely as possible, and are using our inventions to enable systematic approaches to neuroscience, revealing how neurons work together in circuits to generate behavior, and empowering new therapeutic strategies for neurological and psychiatric disorders.
Prof. James DiCarlo, 46-6161, x2-2045, firstname.lastname@example.org
The DiCarlo lab studies high-level neuronal object representations that underlie our remarkable ability for rapid visual recognition. The primary methods used in the laboratory are neurophysiology in awake, behaving monkeys, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and x-ray in monkeys, and computational modeling. The lab typically has open UROP projects that involve a range of topics, including human testing, help with animal experiments, computational modeling, and hardware/software device construction and testing. Students that are very comfortable with computers and software (e.g. Matlab) are especially encouraged to contact us.
Prof. Michale Fee, 46-5133, x4-0173, email@example.com
The research in the Fee Lab has two main themes: 1). To understand the neural and biophysical mechanisms underlying the generation and learning of complex sequences 2). To develop advanced optical and electrical techniques for measurement of brain activity in behaving animals.
Prof. Guoping Feng, 46-3143A, x5-4898, fengg@MIT.EDU.
The Feng lab studies the development and function of synapses and their disruption in brain disorders. We use multidisciplinary approaches including molecular genetics, behavioral analysis, electrophysiology, in vivo imaging and optogenetics to study how synapses are assembled and modulated and to understand how disruptions in synaptic function can lead to abnormal behaviors and psychiatric disorders.
Prof. John Gabrieli, 46-4033B, x3-8946, firstname.lastname@example.org
Brain basis of memory, thought, and emotion in humans as studied by brain imaging (fMRI). We study both normal brain function, and diseases of brain function such as Alzheimer's disease, dyslexia, ADHD, and autism.
Prof. Edward Gibson, 46-3035, x3-8609, email@example.com
Questions: How do humans successfully communicate with one another? What properties (phonological, lexical and syntactic) are universal among the world's languages and why? To the extent that languages differ from one another, what explains this variation? How do children learn to communicate and what goes wrong in language disorders? Methods: behavioral experiments, ERPs, corpus analyses, computational modeling.
Prof. Ann Graybiel, 46-6133B, x3-5785, firstname.lastname@example.org
Functional organization of cortico-basal ganglia circuits with approaches including electrophysiology, molecular biology, optogenetics, and other methods to manipulate functional operation, focusing on habits, decision-making, motor control and basal ganglia-based disease states such as OCD, Parkinson's and Huntington's disease.
Prof. Myriam Heiman, 46-4303A, x2-3717, email@example.com
Our research group studies the basis of neuronal cell vulnerability in neurodegenerative disease, utilizing genetic, molecular, cellular, and biochemical techniques.
Prof. Alan Jasanoff, NW14-2213, x-2-2538, firstname.lastname@example.org
Magnetic resonance imaging of reward-related behavior in animals; development of new MRI contrast agents for neuroimaging; molecular imaging applied to study neural function in single cells and circuits.
Prof. Nancy Kanwisher, 46-4133, x8-0721, email@example.com
Functional organization of the human mind and brain including brain specializations for aspects of high-level vision and audition, social cognition, and language, and development of these specializations in typical children and children with autism. http://mit.edu/bcs/nklab/index.shtml
Prof. Yingxi Lin, 46-3121A, x4-6552, firstname.lastname@example.org
Our lab studies the development and function of inhibitory (GABAergic) circuits in the brain, with the ultimate goal of understanding the etiology of neurological disorders that have been linked to deficits in the GABAergic system. Currently, we are focused on addressing the following questions: 1. How does neuronal activity modulate GABAergic synapses? 2. How does the regulation of GABAergic synapses contribute to the homeostasis of neural circuits? 3. How does the function of GABAergic synapses contribute to animal?
Prof. Troy Littleton, 46-3243, x2-2605, troy@MIT.EDU
The focus of the work in the Littleton lab is to understand the mechanisms by which neurons form synaptic connections, how synapses transmit information, and how synapses change during learning and memory. To complement this basic research in neuroscience, the lab also studies how alterations in neuronal signaling underlie several neurological diseases, including epilepsy, autism and Huntington's Disease. They combine molecular biology, protein biochemistry, electrophysiology, and imaging approaches with Drosophila genetics to address these questions.
Prof. Josh McDermott, 46-4065, 253-7437, email@example.com, effective January 15, 2013
The McDermott lab studies how people hear. We work at the intersection of psychology, neuroscience, and engineering, trying to jointly understand the basis of human auditory abilities and to engineer machine systems that can come closer to human levels of performance and/or assist humans in interpreting sound. Our investigations rely primarily on behavioral experiments in humans, computational modeling, statistical signal processing, and sound synthesis methods, although we also engage with various tools from neuroscience. Specific topics of interest include the cocktail party problem (separating a mixture of sounds into the component sources), sound source recognition, auditory memory and attention, and music perception.
Prof. Earl Miller, 46-6241, x2-1584, firstname.lastname@example.org
Interests in the Miller laboratory center around the neural mechanisms of attention, learning, and memory needed for voluntary, goal-directed behavior. Much effort is directed at the prefrontal cortex, a cortical region at the anterior end of the brain that is greatly enlarged in primates, especially humans. The prefrontal cortex has long been known to play a central role in cognition. Its damage or dysfunction disrupts the ability to ignore distractions, hold important information "in mind", plan behavior, and control impulses. The lab explores prefrontal function by employing a variety of techniques including multiple-electrode neurophysiology, psychophysics, pharmacological manipulations, and computational techniques.
Important credit note: research done in Prof. Langer's Lab will not fulfill a department requirement. Department requirements can only be met through research done in the laboratories of Course 9 faculty listed below.
Faculty Research Descriptions
Recent work in the lab has shown that neurons in the prefrontal cortex have complex properties that are ideal for a role in cognitive control. Their activity is highly dependent on, and shaped by, task demands. They are selectively activated by relevant sensory inputs, involved in recalling stored memories, and they integrate the diverse information needed for a common behavioral goal. Perhaps most importantly, they transmit acquired knowledge. Their activity reflects learned associations between diverse stimuli, actions, and their consequences. They can even convey abstract behavioral information such as "rules." This representation of the formal demands of tasks within the prefrontal cortex may provide the necessary foundation for the complex forms of behavior observed in primates, in whom this structure is most elaborate.
Prof. Elly Nedivi, 46-3239, x3-2344, email@example.com
The capacity of the brain to modify connections in response to levels of activity is termed plasticity. Plasticity is a prominent feature of brain development, and in the adult underlies learning and memory and adaptive reorganization of sensory maps. The Nedivi lab studies the cellular mechanisms that underlie activity-dependent plasticity in the developing and adult brain through studies of neuronal structural dynamics, identification of the participating genes, and characterization of the proteins they encode.
Prof. Tomaso Poggio, 46-5177B, x3-5230, firstname.lastname@example.org
Theory and Math of learning, Machine Learning applications, Theory and Models of the Brain, machine and human vision, in particular object recognition; automatic phenotyping of behavior in mice and humans; novel approaches to speech recognition to improve Siri and similar apps.
Prof. Mary Potter, 46-4125, x3-5526, email@example.com
Human cognitive psychology: picture perception, attention, memory, sentence comprehension, reading, word perception.
Prof. Drazen Prelec, E40-161, x3-2833, firstname.lastname@example.org
Individual decision making (especially apparent irrationalities), choices, preferences, risk, impatience, consumer misbehavior.
Prof. Whitman Richards, 32-G364, x3-5776, email@example.com
High level vision and perception; Intentionalit; aesthetics; knowledge-structures.
Dr. Ruth Rosenholtz, 46-4115, x4-0269, firstname.lastname@example.org
Experiments and computational modeling of visual perception, particularly visual search, texture perception, and effect of visual clutter on perception. Application of visual perception to design of user interfaces and information visualizations, and image coding/image quality.
Prof. Rebecca Saxe,
46-4019, x4-2885, email@example.com
Development and neural basis of social cognition: for example, empathy, morality, conflict, and theory of mind. Approaches include functional neuroimaging (fMRI) and behavioral experiments in infants, children, and adults.
Prof. Laura Schulz, 46-4011B, x3-7957, firstname.lastname@example.org
My lab studies cognitive development, with a particular focus on causal learning. Since babies and children have limited prior knowledge and no formal training, understanding how children reason about the world can give us insight into the origins of knowledge and fundamental principles of learning. Using a variety of approaches (toys, storybooks, computational models, and infant reaching and looking-time paradigms), we are currently looking at how evidence and prior knowledge interact to promote curiosity and affect exploratory play and at how exploratory play generates evidence to support new causal learning.
Prof. Sebastian Seung, 46-5065, x2-1693, email@example.com
Connectomics, the mapping of neural connections (involves electron and light microscopy, and image analysis through artificial intelligence and social computing)
Prof Pawan Sinha, 46-4077, x3-1434, firstname.lastname@example.org
Experimental and computational studies of how the human brain interprets the visual world. Projects include: 1. testing visual recognition skills of children adults and some patient populations (some testing involves brain imaging). 2. development of computer programs that can intelligently analyze images. 3. creation of practical devices for helping the blind interact with the environment.
Prof. Mriganka Sur, 46-6237, x3-8784, x3-8785, email@example.com
Development and plasticity of the cerebral cortex; mechanisms of learning and memory in the adult brain; activity-dependent mechanisms of synaptic change in visual cortex; autism and developmental brain disorders.
Prof. Josh Tenenbaum, 46-4015, 2-2010, firstname.lastname@example.org
We study the computational basis of human learning and inference. Through a combination of mathematical modeling, computer simulation, and behavioral experiments, we try to uncover the logic behind our everyday inductive leaps: constructing perceptual representations, separating "style" and "content" in perception, learning concepts and words, judging similarity or representativeness, inferring casual connections, noticing coincidences, predicting the future. We approach these topics with a range of empirical methods—primarily, behavioral testing of adults, children and machines—and formal tools – drawn chiefly from Bayesian statistics and probability theory, but also from geometry, graph theory, and linear algebra. Our work is driven by the complementary goals of trying to achieve a better understanding of human learning in computational terms and trying to build computational systems that come closer to the capacities of human learners.
Prof. Li-Huei Tsai, 46-4235A, x4-1660, email@example.com
My laboratory is interested in elucidating the pathogenic mechanisms underlying neurological disorders affecting learning and memory. The major research areas include neuropsychiatric disorders, autism, and Alzheimer's disease. Our findings have led to the hypothesis that deregulation of Cdk5, through conversion of p35 to p25, plays an important role in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's. Recently, we found that chromatin remodeling via increased histone acetylation is beneficial for learning impairment and memory loss caused by severe neurodegenreation in the inducible p25 mouse model.
Prof. Kay Tye, 46-6263, firstname.lastname@example.org
We are interested in identifying the neural circuits underlying motivated behaviors, ranging from seeking pleasure to avoiding pain. Understanding these circuits is relevant to both basic science and clinical application, as we hypothesize that perturbations in these circuits may lead to neuropsychiatric diseases including anxiety, depression and addiction. To identify these circuits and test this hypothesis, we employ an integrated approach involving optogenetic, electrophysiological, pharmacological and imaging techniques to understand motivated behaviors.
Prof. Kenneth Wexler , 46-3029, x3-5797, email@example.com
Language acquisition in children: linguistic development, especially the development of syntax, semantics, pragmatics, and morphology. Research on language impairment in people with specific language impairment, Williams syndrome, Down syndrome, and autism spectrum disorders. Research on identifying genetics underlying language impairments. Relation between language development and brain structures, especially using imaging.
Prof. Matthew Wilson, 46-5223, x3-2046, firstname.lastname@example.org
Hippocampal learning and memory.
Prof. Weifeng Xu, 46-4239A, x5-5392, email@example.com
We are interested in elucidating the molecular mechanisms that mediate activity-dependent modifications of neuronal properties (neural plasticity), and the implications of those mechanisms in neurodegenerative and psychiatric diseases. To achieve this end we will apply state-of-the-art methods combining molecular biology and electrophysiology and, when necessary, incorporate new methods to overcome the limitations of current technologies used in molecular manipulations in neurons. The advanced method of immediate applicability is the lentivirus-mediated molecular replacement system for spatiotemporal-controlled manipulation of neuronal proteins, combined with functional analysis using dual-whole-cell patch clamping techniques.
Feng Zhang, 46-5023B, 714-7578, firstname.lastname@example.org
Feng Zhang is developing molecular and optical tools for reverse engineering biological systems, with an emphasis on the brain. As a student, he played a major role in the development of optogenetics, a technology by which the brain’s electrical activity can be controlled with light-sensitive proteins. He is now working to extend this molecular engineering approach to other aspects of brain function such as gene expression, and to develop new approaches to understanding and eventually treating brain diseases. Designer proteins The mammalian brain expresses around 20,000 genes, and a method to regulate their activity with precise specificity would be of great value as a research tool. It could also lead to new therapies for brain disorders, many of which involve abnormal patterns of gene expression. As a junior fellow at Harvard, Zhang developed a new method for constructing customized DNA-binding proteins. These proteins, known as TAL-effectors, can be produced quickly and cheaply using the new method, and can be targeted to any desired DNA sequence