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Session Days

Session Type


11:30 AM - 12:30 PM ET

Brain Pathways for Vocal Learning and Spoken Language

The presentation will focus on recent work on the principles of vocal communication and multi-pronged approach leveraging evolutionary genomics, molecular biology, physiology and behavior.

Debara Tucci, MD, MS, MBA

Director, National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, NIH

Dr. Debara L. Tucci assumed the role of the director of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), on September 3, 2019. Dr. Tucci has been recognized as a pioneer in her work to understand the causes and impact of hearing loss and to develop treatments to restore hearing. Prior to joining the NIDCD, she was on the faculty of Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, since 1993, where she co-founded the Duke Hearing Center and directed Duke’s cochlear implant program.

Dr. Tucci began her career as a clinical audiologist at the University of Virginia (UVA) Health Sciences Center in Charlottesville before earning a medical degree at UVA School of Medicine in 1985. She completed her residency training in otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at UVA and a postdoctoral fellowship in otology, neurotology, and skull base surgery at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. In 2013, Dr. Tucci earned an M.B.A. in business and health sector management from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.

Throughout her career, she has combined clinical and surgical practice in otology, neurotology, and skull base surgery with basic, translational, and clinical research. Her clinical research interests have focused on addressing barriers to hearing health care. She was also instrumental in establishing a national network of academic and community-based research sites to conduct clinical research in hearing and balance disorders. Dr. Tucci also led NIDCD grants to train and mentor the next generation of clinician investigators in otolaryngology and communication sciences. Her work to address hearing loss as a global public health problem continues at NIH in her role as co-chair of the Lancet Commission on Global Hearing Loss.

Erich D. Jarvis, PhD

Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor, The Rockefeller University

Using innovative research techniques that often defy convention, this leading neurobiologist is demonstrating what songbirds can reveal about the evolution of human language and learned behavior. The next time you hear the melodious sound of a songbird, think of what these birds may one day tell us about the origins of human language and how our brain learns behavior. Such is the research focus of neurobiologist Erich Jarvis. His work thus far has resulted in some compelling hypotheses, including: establishing a close anatomical similarity in the brain mechanisms that control vocal communication in songbirds and humans. “What birds and humans seem to have in common is a connection between the front part of the brain, and nerves in the brainstem, that control movement—namely, muscles for producing songs in birds and speech in humans,” Erich says. Erich (who, before deciding on a career in science, was invited to audition for the prestigious Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre in Harlem) graduated from Hunter College in New York City with a bachelor's degree in Biology and Mathematics and later earned his Ph.D. Neurobiology and Animal Behavior from Rockefeller University. Erich is the recipient of key awards and honors for his achievements, including: One of the highest awards given by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) -- the NIH Director's Pioneer Award, and one of the highest given by the National Science Foundation (NSF) -- the NSF Alan T. Waterman Award. He is also a research investigator of the prestigious Howard Hughes Medical Institute. URL for the laboratory:

12:30 PM - 12:40 PM ET


12:40 PM - 2:00 PM ET

Development of Brain Stimulation Responsive to Neural Dynamics

Brain stimulation is a promising treatment; however, results can be inconsistent. A key uncertainty is how to tailor stimulation to effectively modulate neural dynamics. Our collective presentations, based on work done in non-human primates and human subjects, will present recent discoveries on how brain stimulation can interact with internal neural dynamics and thereby modulate behavior. Together, we aim to review state-of-the-art neuromodulation methods and discuss a translational roadmap.

Karunesh Ganguly

University of California San Francisco

Karunesh Ganguly MD, PhD is a clinical neurologist and a research scientist at the University of California, San Francisco and the San Francisco VA Medical Center. He graduated from Stanford University and then completed his MD/PhD degrees through the Medical Scientist Training Program at the University of California, San Diego. He subsequently completed his internal medicine and neurology residency at the University of California, San Francisco. Concurrent with his residency, he conducted research into the development of ‘Brain-Machine Interfaces’ in the Department of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science at UC Berkeley. His clinical expertise is on the neurological rehabilitation of patients with stroke and brain injury. He is also the Director of the Neural Engineering & Plasticity Lab. The laboratory’s basic and translational research program focuses on the development of neural interfaces for patients with disability. Such implantable technology can eventually help disabled patients to directly control assistive devices. His research is funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Department of Veterans Affairs. He was awarded the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE Award) in 2014 and was selected for the 2015 New Innovator Award by the NIH Office of the Director.

Samantha Santacruz

University of Texas at Austin

Samantha R. Santacruz, Ph.D., is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Texas at Austin. Her work focuses on systems-based neurotherapies and brain-machine interfaces to both treat neural pathologies and to better understand the neural mechanisms responsible. Dr. Santacruz received her B.A. degree with Honors in Applied Mathematics from UC Berkeley, and subsequently her M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Electrical Engineering from Rice University. She was awarded the Best Thesis Award for her doctoral work on engineering new methods of deep brain stimulation, supervised by Drs. Behnaam Aazhang and Caleb Kemere. She completed her postdoctoral work in Dr. Jose Carmena’s lab at UC Berkeley and joined the faculty at UT Austin in 2018. In 2020 she was selected as one of 85 participants in the National Academy of Engineering US Frontiers of Engineering Symposium.

Joni Wallis

University of California Berkeley

Dr. Wallis is a Professor at the University of California, Berkeley in the Department of Psychology and the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute. Dr. Wallis received a Ph.D. in Anatomy from the University of Cambridge and did her postdoctoral work in the lab of Dr. Earl Miller at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It was here that she identified the first neurons in the brain to encode high-level, abstract rules. Her subsequent research has focused on understanding the functional organization of the frontal lobe at the single neuron level and how it relates to decision-making. Her lab specializes in high-channel count recordings of electrical activity from multiple individual neurons throughout the frontal cortex and determines the information encoded by those neurons. Her research uses techniques derived from the brain-machine interface literature, such as real-time decoding and closed-loop microstimulation, with the goal of developing novel treatments for neuropsychiatric disorders that involve impaired decision-making including addiction, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and schizophrenia. Her current projects focus on the contributions of orbitofrontal-hippocampal circuits to reward-based learning. Her research is funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Katherine Scangos

University of California San Francisco

Dr. Katherine Scangos, MD, PhD, is a psychiatrist and neuroscientist who focuses on circuit-level models of depression as an Assistant Professor in the University of California, San Francisco Department of Psychiatry. Her clinical work centers on interventional psychiatry. She co-directs the Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation and Neuromodulation clinic at UCSF. She also conducts quantitative neuroscience research on the development of electrophysiologic biomarkers in patients with mood disorders and works to develop new forms of brain stimulation therapies. Her goal is to translate these findings into a better understanding of neuropsychiatric illness and the development of novel therapeutics. She currently co-leads a clinical trial of personalized closed-loop deep brain stimulation in patients with depression. Dr. Scangos is a recipient of the National Institute of Mental Health’s Outstanding Resident Award Program and a 1907 Trailblazer Award. She currently receives funding from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and the National Institute of Mental Health. She received her medical degree and a doctorate in neuroscience from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine (MD/PhD). She subsequently completed psychiatry residency at University of California, Davis and a fellowship in Interventional Psychiatry at University of California, San Francisco.

Robert Reinhart

Boston University

Dr. Robert Reinhart, Ph.D. was trained at Vanderbilt University, forewent postdoctoral training, and is currently Assistant Professor of Psychological & Brain Sciences at Boston University where he directs the Cognitive & Clinical Neuroscience Laboratory. His ongoing research utilizes electrophysiological measurements of brain activity, noninvasive neuromodulation, and novel behavioral tasks to elucidate the mechanisms of perception and cognition in healthy younger and older adults, and people with neuropsychiatric disorders. Dr. Reinhart's research program includes the development of improved neuromodulation techniques to rescue neural and behavioral functions in people with schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive behaviors, and age-related cognitive impairment. His research is supported by R01s from the National Institute of Aging and the National Institute of Mental Health, and by a generous gift from an individual philanthropist.

Alexander Opitz

University of Minnesota

Alexander Opitz is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Minnesota. His research focuses on developing non-invasive brain stimulation technologies for psychiatric and neurological disorders. Dr. Opitz has a particular interest in the underlying biophysics and physiology of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and transcranial electric stimulation (TES). He is a PI on several Brain Initiative grants aimed at improving our understanding of how non-invasive brain stimulation affects brain activity. He believes it is necessary to study the effect of brain stimulation across various levels of investigation to make progress. Thus, research in his lab spans from computational modeling of electric fields and their effect on neurons, to electrophysiological recordings of brain activity in animal models and humans. His lab is further developing closed-loop stimulation technologies to improve the effectiveness of TMS. Dr. Opitz organizes the annual “Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation Workshop” at the University of Minnesota targeted at all researchers interested in advancing their methods tool kit in advanced brain stimulation methods.
12:40 PM - 2:00 PM ET

Engineering Receptors for the Precision Control of Neural Networks

The molecular and structural biology of ion channels, transporters, GPCRs, RTKs, and other factors involved in neural signaling has made enormous advances in recent years. This has opened an opportunity to engineer these systems to be able to control them with high precision in neurons, networks, and brains. The symposium will highlight latest developments in the field and hopes to engender a healthy discussion on the scope and limitations of these approaches.

Dirk Trauner

New York University

Ehud Y. Isacoff

University of California Berkeley

Ehud Isacoff is the Rauch Professor of Neurobiology in the UC Berkeley Department of Molecular and Cell Biology. He directs the Berkeley Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute and Weill Neurohub East and is a member of the NAS. Isacoff works on the biophysical mechanisms of function of ion channels and neurotransmitter receptors, the molecular basis of synaptic transmission and plasticity, and the development and function of neural circuits. His lab contributed to the elucidation of the mechanism of voltage sensing and gating of voltage-gated channels and enzymes and, from these, designed the first genetically encoded voltage indicator. His quantal imaging of excitatory synaptic transmission at large numbers of identified synapses revealed an unexpected degree of heterogeneity in synaptic strength, plasticity, and synaptic homeostasis between synapses of a single neuron. With Rich Kramer and Dirk Trauner, Isacoff developed Photoswitched Tethered Ligands that can be turned on and off with light to block channels, one of the early versions of optogenetics. With Trauner, he went on to develop photo-agonists and antagonists for ionotropic receptors and GPCRs that operate on the sub-millisecond timescale and enable synaptic connections to be probed in intact circuits at multiple spatial scales, from single dendritic spines to genetically select cells within whole brain regions. A first applied chemical optogenetics effort from his lab has been on vision restoration in animal models of blindness where light-gated receptors are used to install light sensitivity into surviving retinal cells following photoreceptor cell degeneration. A new adaptation of the method to dopamine receptors, led by his postdoctoral fellow Prashant Donthamsetti, who will present his work, is being applied to the analysis of dopamine circuits and will be tested in animal models of Parkinson’s Disease as a possible approach for restoring movement control with optical deep brain stimulation.

Bryan Roth

University of North Carolina

Bryan Roth MD, PhD is the Michael Hooker Distinguished Professor of Pharmacology at UNC Chapel Hill Medical School.

Joshua Levitz

Weill Cornell Medicine

My research program is aimed at bridging our understanding of the basic signaling mechanisms of G protein-coupled receptors and their roles in the synaptic and circuit bases of neuromodulation using optical tools. A major goal is to use this mechanistic, inter-disciplinary perspective to shed light on the pathophysiology and treatment of psychiatric disorders. I have a broad background in a number of relevant areas, including GPCR and ion channel structure-function, molecular pharmacology, optogenetic methodology, and cellular and synaptic signaling in culture, ex vivo and in vivo. I have accumulated strong technical training in a variety of methods including cellular imaging, cultured cell and slice electrophysiology, fluorescence microscopy, neuroanatomical tracing techniques, RNA sequencing, and mouse behavior which have formed the foundation for my lab’s current work. My lab at Weill Cornell Medicine (WCM) has established a highly interdisciplinary and quantitative approach to understanding the basic molecular mechanisms of neuromodulatory receptors and using this insight to probe how these receptors function in synapses and circuits of neuropsychiatric disease relevance. The collaborative nature of my work, which includes close interaction with synthetic chemists, structural biologists, biophysicists, systems neuroscientists and psychiatrist in both the US and Europe, has allowed me to develop skills in managing large projects and integrating work from various levels of study.

I am devoted to the training and mentorship of a diverse group of junior scientists. I am a member of the Biochemistry and Cell and Molecular Biology (BCMB) and Physiology, Biophysics, and Systems Biology (PBSB) and tri-institutional program in chemical biology (TPCB) graduate groups. I currently have three postdoctoral fellows working in my lab along with six PhD students with two from the BCMB program, two from Neuroscience, one from PBSB and one from TPCB. I am committed to providing an inclusive environment and to supporting trainees from underrepresented groups and those with disabilities. Three of my current PhD students come from underrepresented groups. In addition to emphasizing the development of skills for rigorous scientific research, I have prioritized supporting career development efforts that are tailored to each student. My training philosophy is to maintain continuous hands-on technical training and day-to-day interaction while emphasizing the development of an independent perspective. I encourage students to develop their own interests and pursue the areas of our research program that are most interesting to them while staying on track to finish their training in a timely manner (<5.5 years). In addition, I am very supportive of intra- and inter-lab collaboration which is consistent with my lab’s fundamentally interdisciplinary interests. Finally, I am fully supportive of a wide range of long-term directions for my trainees, including those in academia, industry and government and encourage my students and post-docs to take advantage of the excellent career services at Weill Cornell.

Lin Tian

University of California Davis School of Medicine

Lin’s research focuses on engineering optical probes for monitoring and controlling neural circuitry in living behaving animal. These new imaging techniques have greatly impacted the field of neuroscience, facilitating new types of biological experiments performed to address previously intractable questions.

Lin was born and raised in China. After graduating from University of Science and Technology of China, she joined an interdisciplinary PhD program at Northwestern University, where she studied the mechanisms of protein processing via ubiquitin-proteasome pathway in Dr. Andreas Matouschek’s lab. She then moved to HHMI Janelia Farm as a postdoc. The highly collaborative environment at Janelia resulted in her multidisciplinary training under three principle investigators, Dr. Loren Looger, Dr. Karel Svoboda and Dr. Luke Lavis. There, her research focused on engineering optical probes for monitoring and controlling neural circuitry in living, behaving animals.

These new imaging techniques have greatly impacted the field of neuroscience, facilitating new types of biological experiments performed to address previously intractable questions. One indication of the impact of this particular project on the field is the fact that the published paper on this topic (Tian et al, Nature Methods, 2009) has been cited about 400 times.

Lin has been with UC Davis since 2012.

Prashant Donthamsetti

University of California Berkeley

Dopamine plays diverse roles in health and disease. However, our ability to interrogate its function in neural circuits is hampered by the complex spatiotemporal dynamics of dopamine release, the heterogenous expression of the five dopamine receptors (D1R-D5R), and the pleiotropic nature of dopamine receptor signaling. Over my career, I have developed innovative solutions for these challenges to gain new insight into the causal basis of dopamine action in the brain.

I received my graduate training from Dr. Jonathan Javitch at Columbia University, where I created novel molecular tools to disentangle the relationship between dopamine receptor signaling and behavior (Donthamsetti et al, Mol Psych, Donthamsetti* et al, JBC). Dopamine receptors are G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) that recruit G protein and arrestin signaling molecules. Using engineered “signaling biased” receptors, I discovered that D2R can control different behaviors by engaging distinct modes of signaling. In addition, I identified key molecular differences between D2R and its closest homolog D3R (Donthamsetti* et al, Mol Pharm, Donthamsetti* et al, J Med Chem), guiding the discovery of selective drug-like compounds for addiction.

As a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Dr. Ehud Isacoff at UC Berkeley, I developed a new approach to control endogenous receptors with receptor subtype, cell type, and spatiotemporal specificity in vivo. Building on my earlier work (Donthamsetti et al, JACS, 2017, Donthamsetti et al, JACS, 2019), this system has two components: a photoswitchable receptor ligand that can be rapidly and reversibly turned on and off with light (the P component), and a plasma membrane anchor that restricts the P alongside the target receptor in a specific cell type and location (the M component). Using this approach, I found that dopaminergic input to the dorsal striatum triggers movement in mice solely by activating D1R in direct pathway-MSNs (Donthamsetti et al, in revision, Nat Comms).

Scott Sternson

University of California San Diego
HHMI Janelia Research Campus

Polina Anikeeva

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Polina Anikeeva received her BS in Physics from St. Petersburg State Polytechnic University, and a PhD in Materials Science and Engineering from MIT. She completed her postdoctoral training at Stanford, where she created devices for optical stimulation and recording from brain circuits. She is currently a Professor in the Departments of Materials Science and Engineering and Brain and Cognitive Sciences, and is an Associate Member of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research. Polina also serves as an Associate Director for the Research Laboratory of Electronics. Her lab focuses on the development of flexible and minimally invasive materials and devices for neural recording, stimulation, and repair. Polina is a recipient of NSF CAREER Award, DARPA Young Faculty Award, the TR35, and Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise.

Jayeeta Basu

New York University

Dr. Jayeeta Basu is an Assistant Professor in the Neuroscience Institute at New York University Langone Health. Dr. Basu earned her Bachelors degree in Physiology (B.Sc. Hon.’s) from Presidency College in Calcutta, India. In 2002, Jayeeta received a Masters degree in Neuroscience at the International Max Planck Research School, Georg August University in Göttingen, Germany for her research with Dr. Christian Rosenmund and Dr. Erwin Neher on the kinetics of neurotransmitter release. She then completed her Ph.D. at Baylor College of Medicine, where her thesis focused on molecular mechanisms of synaptic vesicle release and short-term plasticity in hippocampal cultured neurons. In 2007, Dr. Basu joined Dr. Steven Siegelbaum’s laboratory at Columbia University for her post-doctoral training. She examined how excitatory and inhibitory circuits interact to shape dendritic integration, timing-dependent plasticity, and learning behavior in the hippocampus. In her own lab, Dr. Basu aims to identify synaptic and behavioral correlates of learning-related activity in genetically defined circuits of the mammalian hippocampus and entorhinal cortex. Her research combines mouse genetics with electrophysiology, two-photon imaging, and behavior to parse out the synaptic, cellular, and circuit mechanisms of learning.

2:00 PM - 2:30 PM ET


Take this time to chat with poster presenters live! Select presenters are standing by to answer your questions. (Note that discussions are limited to <50 with only 12 individuals on camera at once to help focus conversations.)

2:30 PM - 3:30 PM ET

Research Highlight Talks - Concurrent Session 1

Research Highlight Talks are ~15 minute scientific presentations sharing the latest findings from BRAIN Initiative projects covering the spectrum of research into: cell types, circuit diagrams, monitoring neural activity, interventional tools, theory and data analysis tools, human neuroscience, integrated approaches, and neuroethics. Talks are paired with a scientific poster – check them out in the Poster Hall!

Yong Yao

National Institute of Mental Health, NIH


Aparna Bhaduri

Assistant Professor, University of California Los Angeles

An Atlas of Arealization Identifies Dynamic Molecular Signatures in the Developing Human Brain
Poster Number: 0001

Ueli Rutishauser

Professor, Cedars-Sinai & Caltech

Deciphering the neuronal mechanisms of human episodic memory
Poster Number: 5068

Amina Qutub

Associate Professor, University of Texas at San Antonio

Single Cell Communication during the Formation of Neural Networks

2:30 PM - 3:30 PM ET

Research Highlight Talks - Concurrent Session 2

Research Highlight Talks are ~15 minute scientific presentations sharing the latest findings from BRAIN Initiative projects covering the spectrum of research into: cell types, circuit diagrams, monitoring neural activity, interventional tools, theory and data analysis tools, human neuroscience, integrated approaches, and neuroethics. Talks are paired with a scientific poster – check them out in the Poster Hall!

Kari Ashmont

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, NIH


Laura Cabrera

Associate Professor, The Pennsylvania State University

Barriers and Other Ethical Concerns about Psychiatric Electroceutical Interventions for Treatment-Resistant Depression:
A National Survey Study
Poster Number: 7001

Morris Vanegas

Graduate Student, Northeastern University

A wearable, modular, fiberless, bendable, and 3-D aware functional near-infrared spectroscopy system
Poster Number: 2138

Taylor Webb

Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Utah

Noninvasive Interventions of Deep Brain Circuits in Behaving Primates
Poster Number: 3064

2:30 PM - 3:30 PM ET

Research Highlight Talks - Concurrent Session 3

Research Highlight Talks are ~15 minute scientific presentations sharing the latest findings from BRAIN Initiative projects covering the spectrum of research into: cell types, circuit diagrams, monitoring neural activity, interventional tools, theory and data analysis tools, human neuroscience, integrated approaches, and neuroethics. Talks are paired with a scientific poster – check them out in the Poster Hall!

Karen David

NIH Brain Initiative


Anna Jafarpour

Acting Instructor, University of Washington

Parallel memory systems for efficient recognition
Poster Number: 5039

Anna Gillespie

University of California, San Francisco

Hippocampal Replay Reflects Specific Past Experiences Rather than a Plan for Subsequent Choice
Poster Number: 3018

Fidel Santamaria

Professor, University of Texas at San Antonio

The fish, the circuit, and their history: optimal coding and complex spiking in hardware implementations of fractional order neuronal dynamics
Poster Number: 4073

3:30 PM - 3:45 PM ET


3:45 PM - 4:45 PM ET

CRISPR and Genome Editing

This talk will examine the ethical implications of gene editing.

Francis Collins, MD, PhD

Director, National Institutes of Health

Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. was appointed the 16th Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the Senate. He was sworn in on August 17, 2009. In 2017, President Donald Trump asked Dr. Collins to continue to serve as the NIH Director. President Joe Biden did the same in 2021. Dr. Collins is the only Presidentially appointed NIH Director to serve more than one administration. In this role, Dr. Collins oversees the work of the largest supporter of biomedical research in the world, spanning the spectrum from basic to clinical research.

Dr. Collins is a physician-geneticist noted for his landmark discoveries of disease genes and his leadership of the international Human Genome Project, which culminated in April 2003 with the completion of a finished sequence of the human DNA instruction book. He served as director of the National Human Genome Research Institute at NIH from 1993-2008.

Dr. Collins is an elected member of both the National Academy of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in November 2007, and received the National Medal of Science in 2009. In 2020, he was elected as Foreign Member of the Royal Society (UK) and was also named the 50th winner of the Templeton Prize, which celebrates scientific and spiritual curiosity.

Jennifer Doudna, PhD

HHMI Investigator, Li Ka Shing Chancellor's Chair
in Biomedical and Health Sciences,
Professor, Depts. of Molecular & Cell Biology and Chemistry,
University of California Berkeley

Dr. Jennifer A. Doudna is the Li Ka Shing Chancellor’s Chair and a Professor in the Departments of Chemistry and of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California, Berkeley. Her groundbreaking development of CRISPR-Cas9 as a genome-engineering technology, with collaborator Emmanuelle Charpentier, earned the two the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry and forever changed the course of human and agricultural genomics research. This powerful technology enables scientists to change DNA — the code of life — with a precision only dreamed of just a few years ago. Labs worldwide have re-directed the course of their research programs to incorporate this new tool, creating a CRISPR revolution with huge implications across biology and medicine.

In addition to her scientific achievements, Doudna is a leader in public discussion of the ethical implications of genome editing for human biology and societies, and advocates for thoughtful approaches to the development of policies around the safe use of CRISPR technology. Doudna is an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, senior investigator at Gladstone Institutes, and the President of the Innovative Genomics Institute. She co-founded and serves on the advisory panel of several companies that use CRISPR technology in unique ways. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, the National Academy of Inventors, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Doudna is also a Foreign Member of the Royal Society and has received numerous other honors including the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences (2015), the Japan Prize (2016), Kavli Prize (2018), the LUI Che Woo Welfare Betterment Prize (2019), and the Wolf Prize in Medicine (2020). Doudna’s work led TIME to recognize her as one of the “100 Most Influential People” in 2015 and a runner-up for “Person of the Year” in 2016. She is the co-author of “A Crack in Creation,” a personal account of her research and the societal and ethical implications of gene editing.

4:45 PM - 5:45 PM ET

Speaker Office Hours and Networking

Join live video chats with assorted speakers to ask them about their presentations! These organic discussions are limited to <50 and only 12 discussants may use their camera at at time, to help focus conversations.

11:30 AM - 12:30 PM ET

Transformative Potential of the Human Brain Cell Census in Health and Disease

This presentation will address progress in developing atlases of and gaining experimental access to cell types in the human brain.

Richard Hodes, MD

Director, National Institute on Aging, NIH

Richard J. Hodes, M.D., is the Director of the National Institute on Aging (NIA) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Dr. Hodes, a leading researcher in the field of immunology, was named to head the NIA in 1993.

The NIA leads the Federal effort supporting and conducting research on the biological, clinical, behavioral and social aspects of aging. Dr. Hodes has devoted his tenure to the development of a strong, diverse, and balanced research program. This has led to new and innovative ways to conduct research, share data, and translate findings into practice. Basic biologic research is examining genetic and other factors influencing aging, how they affect longevity, and the development of age-related diseases. Research in geriatrics is uncovering new ways to combat frailty and improve function with age. Behavioral and social research is deepening understanding of the individual behaviors and societal decisions that affect well-being.

Dr. Hodes also directs the Federal effort to find effective ways to treat or prevent Alzheimer’s disease, as the NIA is the lead NIH institute for this mission. Cutting-edge research conducted and supported by the NIA, often in collaboration across institutes at the NIH, has helped to revolutionize the way we think about Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Studies in genetics, basic mechanisms, imaging, and biomarkers have spurred the development of potential therapies aimed at a variety of targets and the testing of interventions at the earliest signs of disease.

Dr. Hodes’ research laboratory in the National Cancer Institute focuses on the cellular and molecular mechanisms that regulate the immune response. Additional background is available at the lab's website.

A graduate of Yale University, Dr. Hodes received his M.D. from Harvard Medical School. He is a Diplomate of the American Board of Internal Medicine, a member of The Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a member of the National Academy of Medicine at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

Ed Lein, PhD

Senior Investigator, Allen Institute for Brain Science
Affliliate Professor, University of Washington

Ed Lein is Senior Investigator at the Allen Institute for Brain Science and an Affiliate Professor in the Department of Neurological Surgery at the University of Washington. He received a B.S. in biochemistry from Purdue University and a Ph.D. in neurobiology from UC Berkeley and performed postdoctoral work at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. He joined the Allen Institute for Brain Science in 2004 and has led the creation of large-scale gene expression atlases of the adult and developing mammalian brain as catalytic community resources, including the inaugural Allen Mouse Brain Atlas and developing and adult human and non-human primate brain atlases. Dr. Lein has driven a number of advances in using the tools of modern molecular genomics to study mammalian brain organization at the regional, cellular and functional level. He leads the Human Cell Types program at the Allen Institute, focused on creating a cellular atlas of the human brain, understanding conserved and specialized features of human brain, developing tools for genetic access to specific cell types in non-genetic organisms including human, and understanding cellular and molecular consequences of brain diseases including Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Lein is a member of the NIH BRAIN Initiative Cell Census Network and the Human Cell Atlas.

12:30 PM - 12:40 PM ET


12:40 PM - 2:00 PM ET

Olfaction: From Sensation to Behavior

This symposium will highlight research illustrating how understanding the neural basis of odor-guided behavior provides a road map for fundamental principles of information processing in the brain. Talks will feature vertebrate and invertebrate models and address organizational principles and emerging theoretical ideas in olfactory codes, their relationship to perception, circuit mechanisms of sensorimotor transformations, and structure-function relationships in neural circuit connectivity.

Dmitry Rinberg

NYU Langone Health

Elizabeth Hong

California Institute of Technology

Katherine Nagel

Neuroscience Institute NYU Langone Health

Davi Bock

University of Vermont

Matt Wachowiak

University of Utah

Matt Wachowiak is a Professor of Neurobiology at the University of Utah, where his research focuses on odor coding and olfactory processing by circuits of the olfactory bulb. He received his B.S. in 1990 from Duke University, and his PhD in Neuroscience in 1996 from the University of Florida. He began working in the chemical senses in 1986, as a high school research intern; as an undergraduate he became interested in neuroscience and went on to pursue his PhD under the guidance of Barry Ache. He then joined the laboratory of Larry Cohen at Yale University School of Medicine, where he began using optical imaging methods to investigate odor coding in lobster, turtles and rodents. He also spent time at the University of California at Berkeley, where he supervised an undergraduate teaching laboratory in Neuroscience. He was a faculty member in the Department of Biology at Boston University from 2002 – 2010, when he moved to the University of Utah.

A longstanding scientific theme of the Wachowiak laboratory is understanding how sensory information is processed by brain circuits in the behaving animal and how active sampling of the sensory environment optimizes sensory processing during behavior. The lab primarily uses optical tools to directly visualize neural activity in genetically- and anatomically-defined neuron populations and to investigate how neurons process olfactory information as an animal smells an odor. The lab was among the first to use imaging to monitor sensory-evoked activity in defined neuronal populations in the awake, head-fixed rodent, and the first to use genetically-encoded reporters to monitor neural activity in the intact mammalian brain. One major research focus supported by the BRAIN Initiative is mapping odorant receptor identity to glomerular identity using in vivo imaging in order to more fully understand sensory transformations in the olfactory bulb; this last project is generating extensive datasets of glomerular response properties that aim to be broadly useful to the olfactory systems neuroscience community.

Kevin Franks

Duke University

My laboratory investigates how odor information is represented in the rodent brain, and how experience can alter these representations. Our goal is to generate mechanistic explanations for how the underlying neurons, synapses and neural circuits are organized to support these representations. We employ a broad arsenal of tools to answer these questions, including in vivo and in vitro electrophysiology and optical imaging of neural activity to examine function; molecular genetic tools to label and control subsets of odor-responsive cells; various optogenetic and chemogenetic tools to perturb defined elements of the piriform circuit; computational tools that deepen our intuitions and allow us to extract general principles from high-dimensional datasets; and, ultimately, behavioral analyses to reveal what the mouse is smelling (or thinks its smelling!).

I have over 20 years of experience studying the function and organization of neural circuits at different levels of inquiry. As a graduate student, with Terry Sejnowski at UCSD, I primarily focused on developing biophysically realistic simulations (using MCell) to characterize synaptic transmission and consequent postsynaptic calcium dynamics at a canonical excitatory synapse. As a postdoc, first with Jeffry Isaacson at UCSD and then with Richard Axel and Steven Siegelbaum at Columbia, I focused on quantitatively characterizing and mechanistically dissecting different elements of the piriform cortex circuit, primarily using whole-cell electrophysiological recordings in acute brain slices. My postdoctoral work was supported by a fellowship from the Patterson Trust Postdoctoral Fellowship Program in Brain Circuitry and a K99/R00 award.

In my own lab at Duke University, we have focused primarily on in vivo analyses of cortical odor coding using extracellular recordings from populations of spiking neurons in awake animals, and combined this with various optogenetic and chemogenetic tools that help reveal the specific roles that different elements of the cortical circuit play shaping these representations. For example, we found complementary coding strategies that allow for non-interfering cortical representations of odor identity and odor intensity (Bolding & Franks, 2017; Roland et al, 2017), described how recurrent cortical circuitry (i) supports concentration-invariant representations of odor identity (Stern et al, 2018; Bolding & Franks, 2018), and (ii) reformats and stabilizes cortical odor representations (Bolding et al, 2020; Pashkowski et al, 2020). This work was supported by a R01 from NIDCD and a CRCNS award in collaboration with Alexander Fleischmann (then at Collège de France, now at Brown University).

12:40 PM - 2:00 PM ET

Achieving Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Neuroscience Research in Under-Served, Under-Resourced and Remote Settings

NIH BRAIN will generate new opportunities for neuroimaging research in under-served, under-resourced, and remote settings, resulting in research with greater racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic diversity. As neuroimaging moves into these field settings, this symposium will explore the importance of community engagement. The panel will consider how to ensure that local communities are ongoing partners; how research can produce local value; and how NIH BRAIN can facilitate bi-directional learning.

Francis X. Shen

University of Minnesota Law School
Harvard Medical School

Dr. Francis X. Shen, JD, PhD is the Executive Director of the MGH Center for Law, Brain, and Behavior, Instructor in Psychology at Harvard Medical School, and a Professor of Law, McKnight Presidential Fellow, and faculty member in the Graduate Program in Neuroscience at the University of Minnesota. In fall 2020 he was the Florence Rogatz Visiting Professor of Law at Yale Law School, teaching Criminal Law. He directs the Shen Neurolaw Lab, whose Lab motto is, “Every story is a brain story.” He serves as the Executive Director of Education and Outreach for the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience, served as a member of the Neuroethics Subgroup of the National Institutes of Health Advisory Committee to the Director BRAIN Initiative Working Group, and speaks nationally and internationally about the emerging intersection of neuroscience, law, and ethics.

Dr. Shen conducts empirical and legal research at the intersection of law, ethics, and neuroscience. He has co-authored 3 books, including the first Law and Neuroscience casebook (Aspen). He has also published articles on a range of neurolaw and neuroethics topics, including the ELSI of field-based highly portable MRI research, memory and lie detection, cognitive enhancement, criminal justice, brain injury, evidentiary admissibility, sports concussion, juror decision-making, criminal mental states, dementia, and mental health. He also teaches and writes on artificial intelligence and the law.

Dr. Shen is a co-PI on multiple NIH funded neuroethics projects. With co-PIs Susan Wolf and Frances Lawrenz at the University of Minnesota and a national working group, Dr. Shen is co-leading an RF1 project on Highly Portable and Cloud-Enabled Neuroimaging Research: Confronting Ethics Challenges in Field Research with New Populations. With co-PIs Benjy Silverman and Justin Baker at McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Dr. Shen is co-leading a project on the ethical, legal, and social implications of deep phenotyping research.

Karen Rommelfanger

Emory University Center for Ethics

Dr. Karen S. Rommelfanger received her PhD in neuroscience and received postdoctoral training in neuroscience and neuroethics. Her lab, the Neuroethics and Neurotech Innovation Collaboratory explores how evolving neuroscience and neurotechnologies challenge societal definitions of disease and medicine, cross-cultural neuroethics, and cross-sectoral neuroethics implementation. Dr. Rommelfanger is an Associate Professor in the Departments of Neurology and Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, the Neuroethics Program Director at Emory University’s Center for Ethics, and Senior Associate Editor at the American Journal of Bioethics Neuroscience and on the first neuroethicist to be called to the editorial advisory board of Neuron. She is dedicated to cross-cultural work in neuroethics serving as ethicist to the China-India Mental Health Alliance and is co-chair of the Global Neuroethics Workgroup of the International Brain Initiative. She is an appointed member to the NIH BRAIN Initiative Neuroethics Working Group and served as ambassador to the EU Human Brain Project’s Ethics Advisory Board. As a Neuroethics Subgroup member of the Advisory Committee to the Director at NIH, she helped design a neuroethics roadmap for BRAIN 2025. She is a member of the World Economic Forum's Global Futures Council on Disruptive Technology for Mental Health. A key part of her work is fostering communication and engagement across multiple stakeholders in neuroscience. Facilitating community conversations, she edits the largest international online neuroethics discussion forum The Neuroethics Blog and she is a frequent contributor and commentator in popular media such as The New York Times, NPR, and The Huffington Post.
Lab URL:
University URL:

Timothy Brown

University of Washington

Dr. Brown is currently a Postdoctoral Scholar in the Philosophy Department at the University of Washington. In the Summer of 2021, he will start as an Assistant Professor of Bioethics and Humanities at the University of Washington. Dr. Brown a founding member of and long-term contributor to the Neuroethics Thrust within UW’s Center for Neurotechnology. He also leads diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts with the International Neuroethics Society. Dr. Brown works at the intersection of biomedical ethics, philosophy of technology, (black/latinx/queer) feminist thought, and aesthetics. His research explores the potential impact of neurotechnologies—systems that record and stimulate the nervous system—on end users’ sense of agency and embodiment. His work also interrogates neurotechnologies for their potential to exacerbate or create social inequities, in order to establish best practices for engineers, clinicians, and device manufacturers. Finally, Dr. Brown’s approach to research is interdisciplinary, embedded, and relies on mixed methods; his work on the logistics of interdisciplinary neuroethics is aimed at fostering deeper collaborations between humanists and technologists.

Jayashree Dasgupta


Jayashree Dasgupta, is a clinical psychologist with a specialization in neuropsychology from the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bangalore, India where she completed her MPhil and PhD. Currently she leads a neuroethics project at Sangath, India under NeuroGenE (Global Initiative in Neuropsychiatric GenEthics) investigating the ethical, legal and social issues of cognitive enhancement in India. She is also a member of the International Neuroethics Society Diversity & Inclusion Task Force. Interested in bridging detection and treatment gaps for mental health, she is also the Co-Founder and Project Director of Samvedna Senior Care, Delhi, which provides clinical services for psychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders. Samvedna has been recognized by Yes Foundation as one of India’s top 25 social impact organizations for their work with older adults and dementia, and she has also been a recipient of travel grants from Alzheimer’s Association International to present her work. Prior to this, she has been Project Director at Sangath for START (Screening Tools for Autism Risk Using Technology) led by Reading University, UK, to develop a tablet based platform for autism risk screening in community settings, and projects to develop gamified tools for assessment of cognitive development. She has also worked with Public Health Foundation of India in community mental health projects and led the Indian adaptation of psychological assessment tools for intelligence and dyslexia with Pearson.

Katie Sale

American Brain Coalition

Katie Sale is the Executive Director of the American Brain Coalition (ABC), a non-profit organization comprised of the United States’ leading professional neurological, psychological, and psychiatric associations and patient organizations. The ABC seeks to advance the understanding of the functions of the brain, and to reduce the burden of brain disorders through education, public advocacy, and outreach.

Ms. Sale has been the American Brain Coalition Executive Director since the ABC was incorporated in 2004. In her position as Executive Director, Ms. Sale provides executive leadership over the administration and manages its daily operations to ensure strong integration among all programs and advocacy activities. She provides broad guidance on operations and policy implementation. Ms. Sale participates with the board in planning and establishing program policies, objectives, and priorities as well as directing the development and implementation of the ABC’s strategic action plans. Ms. Sale services the needs of the ABC’s membership comprised of patients, families, neuroscientists, clinicians, industry, and government agencies.

Prior to joining the American Brain Coalition, Ms. Sale served as the Senior Director for Planning and Membership at the Society for Neuroscience. Ms. Sale was the lead staff liaison in the Society's first Strategic Planning effort by providing input, conducting research, and brainstorming ideas with Council and the Executive Director, as well as implementation of the Plan. She coordinated the governance activities of the Society in accordance with the bylaws and Council procedures. Ms. Sale supervised the Membership Department and all functions related to the Society's individual and corporate members including marketing strategies related to growth and stability. She supervised the Chapters & Special Programs Department and all functions related to the Society's chapters, corporate sponsorship, diversity programs and grants, international affairs, travel awards programs, as well as the Society's History and Women's Careers Committees.

2:00 PM - 2:30 PM ET


Take this time to chat with poster presenters live! Select presenters are standing by to answer your questions. (Note that discussions are limited to <50 with only 12 individuals on camera at once to help focus conversations.)

2:30 PM - 3:30 PM ET

Trainee Highlight Awards - Concurrent Session 1

Trainee Highlight Awardees are selected to present ~4 minute “flash” talks and scientific posters outlining their specific contribution to a broader BRAIN Initiative project. Trainees might be scientists in high school, undergraduate or graduate programs, medical or other professional school, or postdoctoral fellows or residents. All trainees are available to network – find their availability in the Poster Hall!

Nina Hsu

ONCE/National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, NIH


Manwal Harb

Rice University

High-precision noninvasive gene delivery to the brain
Poster Number: 9009

Anne Draelos

Duke University

Real-time analysis of neural activity and functional connectivity
Poster Number: 9003

Katrina Munoz

Baylor College of Medicine

Pressing Ethical Issues in Considering Pediatric Deep Brain Stimulation for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Poster Number: 9016

Garrett Weidig

Michigan State University

Using Studies of the Octopus and Human Reach to Aid the Advancement of Smart Prosthetics
Poster Number: 9028

Ivan Skelin

University of California Irvine

Coupling between slow-waves and sharp-wave ripples engages distributed neural activity during sleep in humans
Poster Number: 9022

Michelle Sigona

Vanderbilt University

Optical tracking informed transducer placement for focused ultrasound simulations
Poster Number: 9021

Xiaoyu Lu

Rice University

Sequence and Structure Guided Genetically Encoded Voltage Indicator Engineering
Poster Number: 9015

Andrew Paek

University of Houston

A 3D-Printed Helmet for Neuroimaging with Optically Pumped Magnetometers
Poster Number: 9018

Chase Haddix

University of Kentucky

Decoding Isometric Handgrip Force from Graded Event-Related Desynchronization of the Sensorimotor Rhythm for Brain-Computer Interface Applications
Poster Number: 9007

Rachael Garner

USC Stevens Neuroimaging and Informatics Institute, University of Southern California

Statistical and Machine Learning Framework to Facilitate Analysis in the Data Archive for the BRAIN Initiative (DABI)
Poster Number: 9004

2:30 PM - 3:30 PM ET

Trainee Highlight Awards - Concurrent Session 2

Trainee Highlight Awardees are selected to present ~4 minute “flash” talks and scientific posters outlining their specific contribution to a broader BRAIN Initiative project. Trainees might be scientists in high school, undergraduate or graduate programs, medical or other professional school, or postdoctoral fellows or residents. All trainees are available to network – find their availability in the Poster Hall!

Ashlee Van't Veer

National Institute of Mental Health, NIH


Kyle O'Sullivan

University of Utah

Fiber activation modeling for targeted central thalamic deep brain stimulation of traumatic brain injury patients
Poster Number: 9017

Yaoheng Yang

Washington University, St. Louis

Noninvasive and Cell-type Specific Deep Brain Neuromodulation with Ultrasound
Poster Number: 9029

Chaitali Anand

University of California, San Francisco

The effect of microglial genes on network diffusion of pathology in mouse models of tauopathy.
Poster Number: 9001

Nora Benavidez

University of California, Los Angeles

The mouse cortico-tectal projectome
Poster Number: 9002

Kaitlin Stouffer

Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Synthesizing Spatial Scales: Computational Tools for Multi-Modal Multi-Scale Neuroimage Registration and Analysis
Poster Number: 9024

Maryssa Gilbert

Michigan State University

Attitudes Toward Psychiatric Electroceutical Interventions for Treatment-Resistant Depression: A National Survey Study
Poster Number: 9005

Daniel Kuhman

University of Alabama at Birmingham

Effects of optimal circular versus directional unilateral STN DBS on motor performance in Parkinson's Disease
Poster Number: 9011

Raghavan Gopalakrishnan

Cleveland Clinic

Movement-related cerebello-cerebral electrophysiological interactions in chronic, post-stroke patients
Poster Number: 9006

Zhuohe Liu

Rice University

Neural activity sensor engineering accelerated by high-throughput microscopy-based screening platform
Poster Number: 9014

Jennifer Lawlor

Johns Hopkins University

Functional microarchitecture for auditory processing in the Inferior Colliculus of the awake bat revealed through two-photon calcium imaging
Poster Number: 9012

2:30 PM - 3:30 PM ET

Trainee Highlight Awards - Concurrent Session 3

Trainee Highlight Awardees are selected to present ~4 minute “flash” talks and scientific posters outlining their specific contribution to a broader BRAIN Initiative project. Trainees might be scientists in high school, undergraduate or graduate programs, medical or other professional school, or postdoctoral fellows or residents. All trainees are available to network – find their availability in the Poster Hall!

Michelle Jones-London

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, NIH


Ehsan Sedaghat-Nejad

Johns Hopkins University

P-sort: an open-source software for cerebellar neurophysiology
Poster Number: 9020

Eleni Varelas

Michigan State University

Psychiatrists’ perspectives on clinical guidelines recommendations for use of electroceutical interventions in major depressive disorder
Poster Number: 9026

Alexander Steele

University of Houston

EEG assessment of central sensory network coding during non-invasive spinal stimulation
Poster Number: 9023

Eugenio Piasini

University of Pennsylvania

Occam's razor for intuitive model selection
Poster Number: 9019

Zabir Ahmed

Carnegie Mellon University

Design, fabrication and in vivo demonstration of high-density Stainless Steel neural probes for recording from NHP brain
Poster Number: 9000

Merrilee Thomas

Yale University

Optically activated, customizable, excitable cell
Poster Number: 9025

Parul Verma

University of California, San Francisco

A biophysical spectral graph model-based investigation of brain oscillations
Poster Number: 9027

Hong Hsi Lee

Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Massachusetts General Hospital

The impact of realistic axonal shape on axon size mapping using double-pulsed-field-gradient (dPFG) diffusion MRI
Poster Number: 9013

Elizabeth Hanson

Baylor College of Medicine

Investigating state-dependent regulation of olfactory processing by the basal forebrain
Poster Number: 9008

Louise Harding

University of British Columbia

Exploring equitable and culturally meaningful access to advanced neurotechnologies for paediatric epilepsy
Poster Number: 9010

3:30 PM - 3:45 PM ET


3:45 PM - 4:45 PM ET

Neural and Behavioral Dynamics of a Social Interaction

This talk will focus on circuits and computations underlying communication behaviors.

Joshua Gordon, MD, PhD

Director, National Institute of Mental Health, NIH

Joshua A. Gordon, M.D., Ph.D. is the Director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the lead federal agency for research on mental disorders. He oversees an extensive research portfolio of basic and clinical research that seeks to transform the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses, paving the way for prevention, recovery, and cure.

Dr. Gordon pursued a combined M.D.-Ph.D. degree at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). Medical school coursework in psychiatry and neuroscience convinced him that the greatest need, and greatest promise, for biomedical science was in these areas. During his Ph.D. thesis with Dr. Michael Stryker, Dr. Gordon pioneered the methods necessary to study brain plasticity in the mouse visual system. Upon completion of the dual degree program at UCSF, Dr. Gordon went to Columbia University for his psychiatry residency and research fellowship because of the breadth and depth of the research opportunities there. Working with Dr. Rene Hen, Dr. Gordon and colleagues studied the role of the hippocampus, a brain structure known to be important for memory and emotional processes associated with anxiety and depression. He joined the Columbia faculty in 2004 as an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry.

Dr. Gordon’s research focuses on the analysis of neural activity in mice carrying mutations of relevance to psychiatric disease. His lab studied genetic models of these diseases from an integrative neuroscience perspective, focused on understanding how a given disease mutation leads to a behavioral phenotype across multiple levels of analysis. To this end, he employs a range of systems neuroscience techniques, including in vivo imaging, anesthetized and awake behavioral recordings, and optogenetics, which is the use of light to control neural activity. His research has direct relevance to schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, and depression. In addition to his research, Dr. Gordon was an associate director of the Columbia University/New York State Psychiatric Institute Adult Psychiatry Residency Program, where he directed the neuroscience curriculum and administered research training programs for residents. Dr. Gordon also maintained a general psychiatric practice, caring for patients who suffer from the illnesses he studied in his lab at Columbia.

Dr. Gordon’s work has been recognized by several prestigious awards, including the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation – NARSAD Young Investigator Award, the Rising Star Award from the International Mental Health Research Organization, the A.E. Bennett Research Award from the Society of Biological Psychiatry, and the Daniel H. Efron Research Award from the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology.

Mala Murthy, PhD

Professor of Neuroscience, Princeton University
Principal Investigator, Murthy Lab, Princeton Neuroscience Institute

Mala Murthy (b. 1975) is an American neuroscientist and Professor of Neuroscience at Princeton University and leads the Murthy lab in the Princeton Neuroscience Institute – their work focuses on the neural mechanisms that underlie social communication, using the fruit fly Drosophila as a model system. Prof. Murthy received her B.S. in Biology from MIT. She was a Burchards scholar in the humanities and won the John L. Asinari prize for outstanding undergraduate research in the life sciences. She then received her PhD in Neuroscience from Stanford University, working with Thomas Schwarz and Richard Scheller - her thesis research centered on mechanisms of vesicle trafficking to synaptic and other cell membranes. She did postdoctoral work in systems neuroscience with Gilles Laurent at Caltech, as a Helen Hay Whitney fellow. Her postdoctoral work initiated a new area of investigation into stereotypy in the central brain of Drosophila, in a region of the brain important for learning in memory. In 2010, she joined the faculty at Princeton University in the Departments of Molecular Biology and Neuroscience. She was promoted to Associate Professor in 2016 and to Full Professor in 2019. Her research group consists of computational neuroscientists and experimentalists, who collectively study the many neural processes that underlie animal communication, including detection and recognition of multisensory cues, decision-making, and execution and patterning of motor actions. She is involved in an effort to generate a whole brain connectome of Drosophila. Her work has led to the discovery that sensory feedback cues and brain internal state dynamically modulate song patterning in flies, which has opened up the study of how the brain mediates the back and forth exchange of information between individuals, leveraging the tools of the fly model system. Her team has also developed new methods for quantifying animal behavior that have been widely used in neuroscience research. Prof. Murthy has received a number of honors, including an NSF CAREER award, an NIH New Innovator award, an Alfred P. Sloan fellowship, a Klingenstein fellowship, a McKnight Scholar award, an NINDS Research Program award, several awards through the NIH BRAIN Initiative, and an HHMI Faculty Scholar award. She has participated in several events for the BRAIN Initiative at the White House and US Capitol. See also: Current Biology Q and A on Prof. Mala Murthy.

4:45 PM - 5:45 PM ET

Speaker Office Hours and Networking

Join live video chats with assorted speakers to ask them about their presentations! These organic discussions are limited to <50 and only 12 discussants may use their camera at at time, to help focus conversations.

11:30 AM - 12:30 PM ET

Advances in Computational Psychiatry: Understanding Cognitive Control as a Network Process

This presentation will explore brain networks and dynamics.

Nora Volkow, MD

Director, National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIH

Nora D. Volkow, M.D., is the Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health, which supports most of the world’s research on the health aspects of drug use and addiction. Dr. Volkow’s scientific research was instrumental in demonstrating that drug addiction is a disease of the human brain and, as NIDA Director, her work has promoted research that improves the prevention and treatment of substance use disorders. As a research psychiatrist, Dr. Volkow pioneered the use of brain imaging to investigate the effects of addictive drugs. Her studies documented disruption of the dopamine system in addiction with its consequential functional impairment of frontal brain regions involved with motivation, executive function and self-regulation. She has also made important contributions to the neurobiology of obesity and ADHD, and has published more than 830 peer-reviewed articles, written more than 100 book chapters and non-peer-reviewed manuscripts, co-edited a Neuroscience Encyclopedia and edited four books on neuroimaging for mental and addictive disorders.

Danielle Bassett, PhD

J Peter Skirkanich Professor of Bioengineering, University of Pennsylvania

Prof. Bassett is the J. Peter Skirkanich Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, with appointments in the Departments of Bioengineering, Electrical & Systems Engineering, Physics & Astronomy, Neurology, and Psychiatry. Bassett is also an external professor at the Santa Fe Institute. Bassett is most well-known for blending neural and systems engineering to identify fundamental mechanisms of cognition and disease in human brain networks. Bassett is currently writing a book for MIT Press entitled Curious Minds, with co-author Perry Zurn Professor of Philosophy at American University. Bassett received a B.S. in physics from Penn State University and a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Cambridge, UK as a Churchill Scholar, and as an NIH Health Sciences Scholar. Following a postdoctoral position at UC Santa Barbara, Bassett was a Junior Research Fellow at the Sage Center for the Study of the Mind. Bassett has received multiple prestigious awards, including American Psychological Association's ‘Rising Star’ (2012), Alfred P Sloan Research Fellow (2014), MacArthur Fellow Genius Grant (2014), Early Academic Achievement Award from the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (2015), Harvard Higher Education Leader (2015), Office of Naval Research Young Investigator (2015), National Science Foundation CAREER (2016), Popular Science Brilliant 10 (2016), Lagrange Prize in Complex Systems Science (2017), Erdos-Renyi Prize in Network Science (2018), OHBM Young Investigator Award (2020), AIMBE College of Fellows (2020). Bassett is the author of more than 300 peer-reviewed publications, which have garnered over 24,000 citations, as well as numerous book chapters and teaching materials. Bassett is the founding director of the Penn Network Visualization Program, a combined undergraduate art internship and K-12 outreach program bridging network science and the visual arts. Bassett’s work has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Army Research Office, the Army Research Laboratory, the Office of Naval Research, the Department of Defense, the Alfred P Sloan Foundation, the John D and Catherine T MacArthur Foundation, the Paul Allen Foundation, the ISI Foundation, and the Center for Curiosity.

12:30 PM - 12:40 PM ET


12:40 PM - 2:00 PM ET

Diversity of the Social Brain

Social interaction is an evolutionarily conserved behavior vital for life. Understanding how the brain modulates social behavior requires an integrative approach bringing together novel methods to map the related cell types, circuits, and neural activity during behavior. In this symposium we bring together research spanning various cutting-edge techniques and organisms to address some of the most burning questions in social behavior.

Ismail Ahmed

New York University School of Medicine

Ismail Ahmed received a B.S. in Biochemistry from The City College of New York. He did his Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics with Dr. Feng Gai at the University of Pennsylvania. His thesis work focused on developing and applying unnatural amino acid-based-probes for a myriad of applications in biological spectroscopy and microscopy. Currently, Ismail is a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Robert Froemke’s lab at New York University School of Medicine. He is interested in how neuropeptides modulate neural circuits giving rise to complex behaviors, such as social behavior. Specifically, he is integrating his chemical biology expertise with classical neuroscience techniques to develop novel tools to understand better the neuromodulatory role of the neurohormone oxytocin in the context of rodent maternal behavior. Ismail’s work is generously funded by a K00 award through the NIH D-SPAN program.

Bianca Jones Marlin

Columbia University

Nancy Padilla-Coreano

Salk Institute

Ishmail Abdus-Saboor

University of Pennsylvania

Ishmail received his Ph.D. in Cell and Molecular Biology from the University of Pennsylvania in 2012, followed by postdoctoral fellowships in Neuroscience at Weill Cornell Medicine and University of Pennsylvania. The Abdus-Saboor lab was established in 2018 in the Biology Department at the University of Pennsylvania. In 2021, the lab will move to the Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute and Department of Biological Sciences at Columbia University. Research in the Abdus-Saboor lab focuses on a long-standing question, “how does the nervous system encode a soft gentle caress, versus an itchy mosquito bite, versus a harsh painful stimulation?” And importantly, how do encoding principles change when the baseline state changes, such as during chronic pain. To accomplish this, the Abdus-Saboor lab uses systems neuroscience, computation, genetics, and mathematics to link animal behavior with genes and neural circuits.

Alison Barker

Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine

Alison J. Barker will begin her independent research group at the Max-Planck Institute for Brain Research in September 2021. She received a Sc.B. in Biochemistry from Brown University and a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the University of California, San Francisco. Since 2017, she has been a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of Gary Lewin at the Max-Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in Berlin, Germany where she led pioneering work into the role of vocal communication in a eusocial rodent, the naked mole-rat. Her work demonstrated that naked mole-rats use distinct vocal dialects to transmit information about social membership and that these vocal cues can be learned early in life. In her own group Barker’s research will focus on how vocal communication reinforces social bond formation and cooperation within groups and the underlying neural circuits driving these behaviors. She will continue her work with the naked mole-rat, adapting traditional tools for neural circuit dissection along with developing new computational tools and machine learning frameworks to investigate how social information is transmitted within social units. Barker’s work takes a broad evolutionary perspective to understand how multiple forms of sociality evolved and how communication, specifically vocal communication, drives cooperation from a neural circuit perspective.

Robert Froemke

New York University School of Medicine

Dr. Froemke is the Skirball Foundation Professor in the Skirball Institute, Neuroscience Institute and Departments of Otolaryngology, Neuroscience and Physiology at NYU Grossman School of Medicine. The Froemke lab studies how sounds acquire meaning by relating synaptic plasticity to changes in behavior, such as the adaptations in the maternal brain to recognize infant cries or how cochlear implant stimulation leads to auditory perception.

Karen Adolph

New York University

KAREN is the Julius Silver Professor of Psychology and Neural Science, and Professor of Applied Psychology at New York University. She uses observable motor behaviors and a variety of technologies (video, motion tracking, instrumented floor, head-mounted eye tracking, EEG, etc.) to study developmental processes. Adolph directs the Databrary video library and the PLAY project, and she developed and maintains the Datavyu video-coding tool. Adolph received a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and Ph.D. from Emory University, and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. She is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association and Association for Psychological Science and Past-President of the International Congress on Infant Studies. She received the Kurt Koffka Medal for “worldwide outstanding work on infants’ perception/action development,” a Cattell Sabbatical Award, the APF Fantz Memorial Award, the APA Boyd McCandless Award, the ICIS Young Investigator Award, FIRST and MERIT awards from NICHD, and five teaching awards from NYU. She chaired the NIH study section on Motor Function and Speech Rehabilitation and serves on the McDonnell Foundation advisory board and editorial boards of Developmental Psychobiology and Motor Learning and Development. Adolph has published 180+ articles and chapters. Her research on perceptual-motor learning and development has been continually funded by NIH since 1991. She currently holds 10 grants.

Kay Tye

Professor, Salk Institute

Kay M. Tye is a Professor and Wylie Vale Chair of the Systems Neuroscience Laboratory at the Salk Institute for Biological Sciences, and an adjunct faculty member at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). Her research program is focused on understanding the neurobiological mechanisms underlying social and emotional processes at the circuit, cellular and synaptic levels, particularly those relevant to psychiatric disease.

Professor Tye was born in Ithaca, New York on July 27, 1981 and graduated from Ithaca High School in 1999. Her professional training began at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where she graduated with a major in Brain and Cognitive Sciences in 2003. After taking a year off to travel, she earned her PhD at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) in 2008, and trained as a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University from 2009-2011. She then became an Assistant Professor at MIT in 2012, and was promoted to Associate Professor with Tenure in 2018. She then moved her laboratory to the Salk Institute in 2019.

Professor Tye has been recognized with a number of prestigious research awards including the NIH Director's New Innovator Award, the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the Society for Neuroscience Young Investigator Award, Technology Review's Top 35 Innovators under 35, and the NIH Director's Pioneer Award. She has also been recognized with a number of awards for mentoring at the undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral level. Further, she is committed to outreach, promoting diversity and inclusion in science.
12:40 PM - 2:00 PM ET

Towards a Functional Cell Census: Approaches to Integrate Large Scale Activity Dynamics with Transcriptional Profiles and Connectivity of Individual Cells

Approaches to record neural dynamics and molecular information from the same cells, and integrate this information with behavior and connectivity in real time, have started to emerge in the past few years. This enables the elaboration of new models about how T-types contribute to large scale combinatorial assemblies that encode states or sensory stimuli. Some among the most promising approaches will be discussed.

Dr. Olivier Berton

National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIH

Olivier Berton is a program director at the National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA) where he oversees research programs that encompass basic research on cells & circuits relevant to addiction and associated behaviors. Dr Berton also co-leads the NIH program team that supports the BRAIN initiative cell census and the development of tools for cells and circuits. Dr. Berton completed his doctoral training in Neuroscience at the University of Bordeaux, France, and his postdoctoral training at UT Southwestern, in Dallas, Tx. Prior to joining the NIH Dr Berton led research groups with a focus on the neurobiology and neuropharmacology of social and motivated behaviors in Pharma and Academia.

Saskia de Vries

Allen Institute

Saskia de Vries is an Associate Investigator in the MindScope Program at the Allen Institute. With a background in systems neuroscience, she has studied visual processing in both vertebrate and invertebrate systems using a combination of physiological, computational, behavioral and molecular tools to parse how individual neurons and their circuits process visual information and use that information to select appropriate behavior. She received a B.S. from Yale University in molecular biophysics and biochemistry and a Ph.D. in neurobiology from Harvard University. Her research interests are centered on how the brain transforms sensory information into perceptions and appropriate behaviors. Such transformations result from sophisticated computations that are carried out by individual neurons and their interactions within a larger circuit. She seeks to understand the cellular and circuit mechanisms that underpin these computations as well as how the network dynamics are regulated to gate distinct channels of sensory information. Her research combines large-scale physiology with computational, behavioral and molecular tools to examine how individual cells function in the visual circuit.

Christina Kim

Stanford University

Dr. Kim develops optical and molecular tools for the detection and control of activated neural ensembles during motivated behaviors. She received a B.A. in molecular biology and a certificate in quantitative and computational neuroscience from Princeton University. She obtained her Ph.D. in Neuroscience with Dr. Karl Deisseroth at Stanford University, where she developed and applied new optical approaches for large-scale calcium recording in freely-moving mice, and for simultaneous 2-photon calcium imaging and optogenetic stimulation of individual neurons to modulate reward-seeking behavior and probe causal circuit dynamics. She then performed her postdoctoral research in Dr. Alice Ting’s lab at Stanford, where she engineered molecular circuits to recording neural activity and transcriptomic information with precise temporal resolution and specificity. She is a recipient of a Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award at the Scientific Interfaces, and a member of the Allen Brain Institute’s Next Generation Leaders Council. She will begin as an Assistant Professor at the Center for Neuroscience and Department of Neurology at UC Davis in September 2021.

Timothy Holy

Washington University, St. Loius

Timothy E. Holy is the Alan A. and Edith L. Wolff Professor of Neuroscience at Washington University in St. Louis. His laboratory combines new tool development with a major scientific focus on the olfactory system of mice. He was one of several independent inventors of light sheet microscopy and pioneered its use in calcium imaging. More recently, his laboratory developed a new optical pipeline for physiology-driven identification of cell types. Scientifically, his laboratory identified new forms of experience-dependent plasticity and discovered the identity of mouse pheromones. He is also one of the principal creators of Julia, a high-performance programming language.

Justus Kebschull

Johns Hopkins University

Justus Kebschull is an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Biomedical Engineering and Neuroscience at Johns Hopkins. His lab develops and applies next-generation connectomics and spatial transcriptomics tools to understand how brain circuits evolved. He completed his PhD in Tony Zador’s lab at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, where he developed first-in-class connectomics tools, including MAPseq and BRICseq. These tools translate the anatomical problem of neural connectivity into a format amenable to the use of modern DNA sequencing approaches and, as a result, speed up single-cell tracing by orders of magnitude. During his postdoc under the tutelage of Liqun Luo at Stanford, Justus Kebschull studied brain region evolution in the cerebellar nuclei of amniotes. Based on his findings, he proposed that brain regions evolve by a process of duplication and divergence of sets of cell types.
Shengjin Xu

HHMI Janelia Research Campus

Shengjin Xu is a Research Scientist in Dr. Scott Sternson’s group at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute-Janelia Research Campus (HHMI-JRC). He received his B.S. degree in Applied Mathematics and M.D. degree in Clinical Medicine from Ningbo University, and his Ph.D. degree in Neurobiology from the Institute of Neuroscience, Chinese Academy of Sciences, supervised by Prof. Mu-ming Poo and Prof. Yang Dan. This fall, he will join the Institute of Neuroscience and Center for Excellence in Brain Science and Intelligence Technology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, as a Principal Investigator.

Recently, he developed the Calcium and RNA Multiplexed Activity (CaRMA) imaging platform, which bridges the gap from gene expression to neural dynamics and behavior and merges traditional systems neuroscience with molecular neuroscience. Using CaRMA imaging, he systematically investigated the relationship between neuronal activity and gene expression in the paraventricular hypothalamus (PVH) across many behavioral states. Previous perturbation studies have indicated that each PVH molecularly defined cell type influences a distinct behavioral state as a labeled-line. Using CaRMA imaging, he found that molecularly defined PVH cell types encode behavioral states using a combinatorial grouped-ensemble-coding, rather than the generally accepted labeled-line-coding. In addition, using machine learning, he quantitatively showed that combinations of cell-type marker genes had predictive power for neuronal responses. Interestingly, his work also suggested that neuromodulation plays an important role in coordinating multiple cell types, analogous to the “conductor” of the PVH neural ensemble. These findings validate molecularly defined cell types as important processing units for brain function and provide an unprecedented view of the functional complexity of the PVH neuron ensemble for encoding behavioral states.

2:00 PM - 2:30 PM ET


Take this time to chat with poster presenters live! Select presenters are standing by to answer your questions. (Note that discussions are limited to <50 with only 12 individuals on camera at once to help focus conversations.)

2:30 PM - 3:30 PM ET

Science Communications Workshop: My Dream Job: Covering the Brain for 40 Years

During this specialty session, attendees will hear from Jamie Talan, a prominent national science writer who has focused on brain research for the past 40 years. She started her career at the New York Times, went onto Newsday, and since 2008 has worked for Neurology Today. In addition she is a book author and an assistant clinical professor of science education at the Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell. She started a lecture series for people with a rare visual and spatial dementias, and co-facilitates two support groups for patients with posterior cortical atrophy.

Margo Warren

Senior Advisor and Chief of Media Relations,
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, NIH

Media Relations Branch Chief, Senior Advisor
Office of Neuroscience Communications and Engagement
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
National Institutes of Health
Ms. Warren oversees the newly released public education campaign, Mind Your Risks, which focuses on the link between high blood pressure and dementia, with a focus on the group most at risk for hypertension, Black men ages 28 to 45. She has played an active role in stroke education for more than two decades and has witnessed the research progress from the first treatment for stroke to more than 1000 stroke centers nationwide offering a variety of therapies.

In addition, she manages the NNDS Press Team who write about a broad range of neurological diseases, working closely with the media to garner coverage for scientific findings. She is an experienced writer and editor, and an advisor to senior staff on strategic communications with the media and public.

Ms. Warren previously served in communications offices at NIA and NIAID, and worked on Capitol Hill, the City of Tucson, and the Tucson Film Commission.

She graduated with honors with a double major in Journalism and Latin from the University of Arizona and was inducted into Mortar Board. She was an investigative reporter and feature editor of her college newspaper and is a member of the newspaper’s Alumni Hall of Fame.

Jamie Talan, MPH

Fellow in Health Equity, Atlantic Foundation
Assistant Clinical Professor of Science Education,
Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell

2:30 PM - 3:30 PM ET

Engaging the Next Generation in STEM

Engaging younger generations in STEM is a sentiment shared across the US BRAIN Initiative. This session will highlight the numerous engagement strategies that exist and that can implemented by individuals across sectors and career stages. This year’s BRAIN Challenge Essay and Video Contest winners will also be participating.

John Ngai, PhD

Director, NIH BRAIN Initiative

John J. Ngai, Ph.D., is the Director of the NIH’s Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN®) Initiative, where he oversees the long-term strategy and day-to-day operations of this ground-breaking enterprise. Dr. Ngai earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry and biology from Pomona College, Claremont, California, and Ph.D. in biology from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena. He was a postdoctoral researcher at Caltech and at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons before starting his faculty position at the University of California at Berkeley. During more than 25 years as a UC Berkeley faculty member, Dr. Ngai has trained 20 undergraduate students, 24 graduate students and 15 postdoctoral fellows in addition to teaching well over 1,000 students in the classroom. His work has led to the publication of more than 70 scientific articles in some of the field’s most prestigious journals and 10 U.S. and international patents. Dr. Ngai has received many awards including from the Sloan Foundation, Pew Charitable Trusts, and McKnight Endowment Fund for Neuroscience. As a faculty member, Dr. Ngai has served as the director of Berkeley’s Neuroscience Graduate Program and Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute. He has also provided extensive service on NIH study sections, councils and steering groups, including as previous co-chair of the NIH BRAIN® Initiative Cell Census Consortium Steering Group.
Kafui Dzirasa, PhD

Duke University

Cagney Coomer, PhD

Post-Doctoral Fellow, Dartmouth College; NERD SQUAD Inc.

Dr. Cagney Coomer, Ph.D. is a Lexington, Kentucky native. She received an Associates' degree in biotechnology from BCTC and a BS degree in biology and chemistry from Virginia State University. Dr. Coomer is completed her Ph.D. in the department of biology at the University of Kentucky, where she studied retinal development and regeneration and is now in her postdoctoral fellowship at Dartmouth College studying neural circuits. In the pursuit of her science degrees, Dr. Coomer has noticed a serious lack of representation and inclusion in the STEM fields. She used this as an inspiration to start a non-profit organization called NERD SQUAD Inc. NERD SQUAD Inc empowers girls of color by exposing them to STEM careers and mentors. High and middle school-aged girls design, develop and facilitate STEM-based activities in the community based on the careers and fields they are exposed to. Dr. Coomer has developed a number of STEM-based student and community programs, some of which have been adopted by elementary schools in the area.

Christian Cazares

Graduate Student, University of California San Diego; Colors of the Brain

An immigrant from Mexico, Christian received his B.A. in Cognitive Science at UC Berkeley funded by the Gates Millennium Scholarship. He spent the following two years doing post-baccalaureate research as a member of the PennPREP program at the University of Pennsylvania. Christian is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the UC San Diego Neurosciences Graduate Program working under the supervision of Dr. Christina Gremel. During this time, he was awarded the NSF-GRFP and the NIH Blueprint D-SPAN training grants. With the use of in-vivo calcium imaging and extracellular recording techniques, Christian’s research focuses on how alcohol dependence disrupts the orbitofrontal cortical circuitry supporting decision-making processes. When not in the lab, Christian skateboards and runs a graduate organization (Colors of the Brain) he co-founded that mentors underrepresented undergraduate students interested in applying to STEM graduate programs.

Vamsi Makineni

BRAIN Challenge Winner

Ayush Botke

BRAIN Challenge Winner

Abhiram Pulavarthi

BRAIN Challenge Winner

2:30 PM - 3:30 PM ET

NSF NeuroNex Show and Tell

The U.S. BRAIN Initiative benefits from amazing research and discoveries funded by the National Science Foundation. One BRAIN research program, NeuroNex, has produced incredible tools and resources that can benefit the broader neuroscience community. Join this Show and Tell session to learn about a handful of these fantastic products and how they can benefit YOUR neuroscience research!

Edda (Floh) Thiels, PhD

Program Director, National Science Foundation

Dr. Thiels earned a PhD in Psychology from Indiana University and undertook postdoctoral training in Behavioral Neuroscience at the University of Pittsburgh. Prior to joining the National Science Foundation (NSF) as program director in the Directorate for Biological Sciences, she conducted research at the Institute of Theoretical Biology in Angers, France, and was on the faculty of the Department of Neurobiology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, where she rose to associate professor and remains an adjunct faculty. Her research interests focus on the neural mechanisms involved in how animals acquire information from the environment and use that information to guide behavior. Her laboratory studied bidirectional plasticity at hippocampal synapses and experience-dependent alterations in brain circuits involved in reward learning and addiction. At the NSF, Dr. Thiels leads the Modulation program in the Division of Integrative Organismal Systems, a program that supports research on the neural mechanisms that mediate organism-environment interactions. She also is involved in several NSF activities under the BRAIN Initiative, including the Next Generation Networks for Neuroscience (NeuroNex), the Collaborative Research in Computational Neuroscience (CRCNS), and the Innovative Strategies for Understanding Neural and Cognitive Systems (NCS) programs, as well as in and other NSF-wide and Biological Sciences-focused programs.

Viviana Grandinaru

Professor of Neuroscience, California Institute of Technology

Dr. Viviana Gradinaru completed her B.S. at Caltech and her Ph.D. research at Stanford University and is now a Professor of Neuroscience and Biological Engineering at Caltech. Prof. Gradinaru has more than 70 publications in top peer-reviewed journals and more than 10 granted patents, additional pending, in areas of optogenetics, viral vectors, and tissue clearing and imaging. Prof. Gradinaru has received the NIH Director’s New Innovator and Pioneer Awards and a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, and has been honored as a World Economic Forum Young Scientist. Gradinaru is also a Sloan Fellow, Pew Scholar, Moore Inventor, Vallee Scholar, and Allen Brain Institute Council Member, and received the inaugural Peter Gruss Young Investigator Award by the Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience. In 2017 she was the Early-Career Scientist Winner in the Innovators in Science Award in Neuroscience (Takeda and the New York Academy of Sciences); in 2018 she received a Gill Transformative award; in 2019 Gradinaru was a Life Sciences Finalist for the Blavatnik National Awards for Young Scientists; and in 2020 she was the winner of Science Magazine & PINS Prize for Neuromodulation and awarded: the Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Biomedical Science; the Outstanding New Investigator Award by the American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy; and the Society for Neuroscience Young Investigator Award.

Professor Gradinaru teaches undergraduate and graduate level classes on viral biology and optogenetics techniques in neuroscience. Viviana Gradinaru has also been very active in technology dissemination, participating with lab members in regular technology training workshops at Caltech and for summer courses at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory as well as founding and now advising the CLOVER Center (Beckman Institute for CLARITY, Optogenetics and Vector Engineering), which provides training and access to the group's reagents and methods for the broader research community (awarded Addgene Blue Flame for reagent dissemination). Gradinaru is also a cofounder and board member of Capsida Biotherapeutics, a fully integrated AAV engineering and gene therapy company.

Dr. Gradinaru’s research group at Caltech specializes in developing neuroscience tools and methods, including engineering of new viral vectors with optimized brain tropism after systemic delivery. In addition to developing technologies for neuroscience, Dr. Gradinaru has also been using such tools and methods to dissect circuitry underlying movement, mood, and sleep disorders (Gradinaru et al., Science, 2009; Xiao et al, Neuron, 2016; Cho et al, Neuron, 2017; Oikonomou et al, Neuron, 2019). The Gradinaru group at Caltech has recently developed and disseminated various new tools for less invasive gene delivery and optogenetics to the brain (Deverman et al Nature Biotechnology 2016; Chan et al Nature Neuroscience 2017; Challis and Kumar et al Nature Protocols 2019; Bedbrook et al Nature Methods 2020; Kumar et al Nature Methods 2020). With collaborators and her own Caltech group, Dr. Gradinaru is now applying these gene delivery tools to neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders (Challis et al Nature Neuroscience 2019; Rauch et al Nature 2020).

Francois St-Pierre

Assistant Professor, Baylor College of Medicine

Dr. François St-Pierre hacks proteins and nucleic acids to create tools for neuroscience. He is a faculty member in the Department of Neuroscience at Baylor College of Medicine in the USA. He is also an Adjunct assistant professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at Rice University. Before joining Baylor College of Medicine and Rice in 2015, St-Pierre earned his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts at the University of Cambridge (U.K.) in Natural Sciences. He completed his Ph.D. in Computational and Systems Biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with Drew Endy, a pioneer in synthetic biology. He then moved to Stanford to conduct postdoctoral training with Michael Lin in Bioengineering and Neuroscience. His laboratory at BCM focuses on engineering genetically encoded voltage indicators, optogenetic silencers, photostable fluorescent proteins, synthetic genetic circuits for uniform protein production, and novel massive-throughput multi-dimensional automated screening platforms. Dr. St-Pierre has been recognized by an Innovation Award from the National Science Foundation; he is also a Scholar of the McNair Medication Institute and a Klingenstein-Simons Fellow. Dr. St-Pierre enjoys leading a diverse team of women and men scientists and collaborating with teams around the globe. More information on his lab can be found at and on Twitter (@stpierrelab).

Xaq Pitkow

Assistant Professor, Rice University

Joshua Vogelstein

Assistant Professor, Johns Hopkins University

3:30 PM - 3:45 PM ET


3:45 PM - 4:45 PM ET

Diversity Equity and Inclusion Dialogue

BRAIN is committing to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and by participating in the discussion, attendees will learn about resources to support and contribute to DEI in their scientific and everyday lives, and particularly with regard to mentorship/leadership; participants will come away with strategies to connect and expand networks in the community.

John Ngai, PhD

Director, NIH BRAIN Initiative

John J. Ngai, Ph.D., is the Director of the NIH’s Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN®) Initiative, where he oversees the long-term strategy and day-to-day operations of this ground-breaking enterprise. Dr. Ngai earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry and biology from Pomona College, Claremont, California, and Ph.D. in biology from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena. He was a postdoctoral researcher at Caltech and at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons before starting his faculty position at the University of California at Berkeley. During more than 25 years as a UC Berkeley faculty member, Dr. Ngai has trained 20 undergraduate students, 24 graduate students and 15 postdoctoral fellows in addition to teaching well over 1,000 students in the classroom. His work has led to the publication of more than 70 scientific articles in some of the field’s most prestigious journals and 10 U.S. and international patents. Dr. Ngai has received many awards including from the Sloan Foundation, Pew Charitable Trusts, and McKnight Endowment Fund for Neuroscience. As a faculty member, Dr. Ngai has served as the director of Berkeley’s Neuroscience Graduate Program and Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute. He has also provided extensive service on NIH study sections, councils and steering groups, including as previous co-chair of the NIH BRAIN® Initiative Cell Census Consortium Steering Group.
Elba Serrano, PhD

Regents Professor
New Mexico State University

Elba Serrano, Lead PI for the NSF HSI National STEM Resource Hub (NMSU), is a neuroscientist and biophysicist who holds a position as Regent’s Professor at New Mexico State University. Her research focuses on development of the mechanosensory systems for hearing and balance and the role of neuroglia in maintenance of brain function. She has decades of experience as a mentor and lead PI/PD for diversity research training programs for students such as NIH RISE and NIH BP-ENDURE. Serrano is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and recipient of a Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring conferred by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Serrano has served on the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director and is a member of the NIH BRAIN Multi-Council Working Group, the NIH ACD Next Generation Research Initiative Working Group, and the SFN Professional Development Committee. A first generation-to-college student, Dr. Serrano earned her PhD in biology (neuroscience) from Stanford University with Peter A. Getting and her bachelor’s degree in physics with a chemistry minor from the University of Rochester. She was named one of the “100 inspiring Hispanic/Latinx scientists in America” by Cell Press in 2020. Serrano was recently selected as a 2021-22 US Fulbright Scholar.

Bruce Fischl, PhD

Professor in Radiology,
Harvard University

My research involves the development of novel techniques for the generation of models of neuroanatomical structures using MRI. This includes the automatic construction of geometrically accurate and topologically correct models of the human cerebral cortex, and the segmentation of over 35 subcortical and ventricular structures. The cortical models have been useful in a number of domains, including the development of a technique that exploits the correlation between cortical folding patterns and function to generate a more accurate mapping across brains. This high-dimensional nonlinear registration results in a substantial increase in statistical power over more standard methods of inter-subject averaging and allows the automatic labeling of many anatomical features of the cortex. The surface models also yield measures of the thickness of the cortical ribbon, which is of great clinical and research significance as many neurodegenerative diseases result in progressive, regionally specific atrophy of cortical gray matter.

The confluence of these two techniques – the construction of accurate and topologically correct models of the cortex, as well as the capability to generate high-resolution mappings across subjects – allows the comparison of cortical atrophy in patient and control populations. Many studies have utilized these tools to understand the pattern of cortical thinning in healthy aging and disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, multiple sclerosis, dyslexia, autism and schizophrenia. We freely distribute the tools (FreeSurfer) to a community of over 50,000 researchers worldwide, which has resulted in hundreds of publications of clinically and neuroscientifically significant findings, greatly amplifying the impact of my research.

My recent work has focused on building tools to instantiate pipeline for transferring information between micron-scale images and whole-brain images. This has allowed us to develop, validate and distribute atlases of human cytoarchitectonic regions in the cerebral cortex, the hippocampus, the thalamus and the amygdala.

Ute Hochgeschwender, MD

Professor, Neuroscience,
Central Michigan University

Ute Hochgeschwender is a Professor at the College of Medicine at Central Michigan University and a member of the Graduate Programs in Neuroscience and in Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology. She graduated from the Free University in Berlin, Germany, with degrees in medicine (MD) and philosophy (MA), which she combined into a life-long interest in studying the brain. She received postdoctoral training in molecular and cellular immunology and molecular neuroscience at the Max Planck Institute for Immunobiology in Freiburg, Germany, and The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, respectively. For the past 6 years she is heading the Bioluminescent Optogenetics Lab. Her research combines optogenetics with bioluminescence, developing tools that use biological light to activate light-sensing molecules and applying them to investigate the underlying mechanisms and potential for non-invasive treatment of neurological and psychiatric diseases. Lab members work on projects from novel tool development to treating spinal cord injury to mechanisms underlying neurodevelopmental disorders. Her lab includes a highly diverse team of postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, and undergraduate trainees. Her training environment strives to be comprehensive, going from molecule to animal behavior, giving trainees a variety of opportunities to explore and experience. Her lab has been supported by BRAIN initiative grants from NIH and NSF, including several Diversity Supplements.

Oliver Rollins, PhD

Assistant Professor,
University of Louisville

Oliver Rollins is an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Louisville. His research focuses on the ways sociocultural dynamics inform the production, use, and anticipated value of neuroscientific knowledges. Currently, he’s conducting a project that examines the social and bioethical implications of neuroscience research on implicit bias, which uses qualitative sociological methods to explore the potential challenges, consequences, and promises of operationalizing racial prejudice and identity as neurobiological processes. Rollins’s forthcoming book, Conviction: The Making and Unmaking of The Violent Brain (Stanford University Press, 2021), traces the development and use of neuroimaging research on anti-social behaviors and crime, with special attention to the limits of this controversial brain model when dealing with aspects of social difference, power, and inequality. Previously, Rollins was a postdoctoral researcher at University of Pennsylvania in the Program on Race, Science & Society (2014-2018) and the Center for Africana Studies and Center for Neuroscience and Society (2016-2018). Rollins received his Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).

Megan Carey, PhD

Neuroscientist and Group Leader,
Neural Circuits and Behavior Laboratory
Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown

Megan R. Carey, PhD is a Group Leader in the Neuroscience Program at the Champalimaud Center for the Unknown in Lisbon, Portugal. She received her PhD in 2005 from the University of California, San Francisco, where her thesis was awarded UCSF’s Krevans Distinguished Dissertation Award. After a Helen Hay Whitney Postdoctoral Fellowship at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Carey started her independent laboratory at the Champalimaud in 2010. Her lab combines quantitative behavioral analysis, genetics, and physiology to understand how the brain controls learned and coordinated movements.

Dr. Carey was an International Early Career Scientist of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and her lab is funded by the European Research Council. She has chaired a number of scientific conferences, including COSYNE (Computational and Systems Neuroscience) and the Cerebellum Gordon Conference. Megan serves on the Board of Reviewing Editors for eLife and the Board of Directors of the Society for the Neural Control of Movement. She is a Scholar (and former Chair) of the FENS-Kavli Network of Excellence and served as a high-level policy advisor to the European Commissioner for Research & Innovation from 2015-2019. Dr. Carey is the Chair-Elect of the ALBA Network for Equity and Diversity in Brain Sciences.

4:45 PM - 5:45 PM ET

Speaker Office Hours and Networking

Join live video chats with assorted speakers to ask them about their presentations! These organic discussions are limited to <50 and only 12 discussants may use their camera at at time, to help focus conversations.