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Exploring New Frontiers of the Brain

Ed Boyden explores the frontier of brain mapping in this talk at Techonomy 2014.

The brain is incredibly complex—containing perhaps a hundred thousand cells per each cubic millimeter, connected by a billion synapses, each operating with millisecond precision. Ed Boyden, associate professor of Biological Engineering and Brain and Cognitive Sciences with the MIT Media Lab and the MIT McGovern Institute, leads the Synthetic Neurobiology Group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where they work to develop tools that enable the mapping of the molecules and wiring of the brain, the recording and control of the brain’s neural dynamics, and repairing it’s dysfunctions. These tools are then applied to the systematic analysis of brain computations, in hopes of revealing the fundamental mechanisms of brain function in order to spur new therapeutic strategies for neurological and psychiatric disorders, including Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, and schizophrenia.

Such technologies rely on interdisciplinary collaborations and include optogenetic tools that 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 single-cell analyses in the living brain. In this talk, Boyden explores the frontier of brain mapping in this talk at the Techonomy 2014 conference in Half Moon Bay, California.

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Boyden has launched an award-winning series of classes at MIT that teach principles of neuroengineering, starting with basic principles of how to control and observe neural functions, and culminating with strategies for launching companies in the nascent neurotechnology space. He also co-directs the MIT Center for Neurobiological Engineering, which aims to develop new tools to accelerate neuroscience progress. Boyden received his PhD in neurosciences from Stanford University as a Hertz Fellow, where he discovered that the molecular mechanisms used to store a memory are determined by the content to be learned. Before that, he received three degrees in electrical engineering, computer science, and physics from MIT.

Amongst other recognitions, Ed Boyden has received the Jacob Heskel Gabbay Award (2013), the Grete Lundbeck European “Brain” Prize, the largest brain research prize in the world (2013), the Perl/UNC Neuroscience Prize (2011), the A F Harvey Prize (2011), and the Society for Neuroscience Research Award for Innovation in Neuroscience (RAIN) Prize (2007). He has also received the NIH Director’s Pioneer Award (2013), the NIH Director’s Transformative Research Award (twice, 2012 and 2013), and the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award (2007), as well as the New York Stem Cell Foundation-Robertson Investigator Award (2011) and the the Paul Allen Distinguished Investigator Award in Neuroscience (2010). He was also named to the World Economic Forum Young Scientist list (2013), the Wired Smart List “50 People Who Will Change the World” (2012), the Technology Review World’s “Top 35 Innovators under Age 35″ list (2006), and his work was included in Nature Methods “Method of the Year” in 2010.

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January 2015 Contributors

Steve FurberSteve Furber CBE FRS FREng is Imperial College London (ICL) Professor of Computer Engineering in the School of Computer Science at the University of Manchester, UK. There, he leads research into asynchronous and low-power systems and, more recently, neural systems engineering.
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Simon SchultzSimon Schultz is Director of the Centre for Neurotechnology at Imperial College London. After receiving degrees in Electrical & Computer Systems Engineering and Physics, he earned his PhD in the area of computational neuroscience under Prof. Edmund Rolls at Oxford.
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