Caltech Neuroscience

Several Caltech laboratories are applying basic science findings to animal models of brain disorders, and these translational approaches are opening up novel therapeutic avenues.

Caltech Neuroscience research spans a wide range: from the molecular function of receptors; through signaling organelles like the synapse; the structure and function of single neurons; the assembly and function of circuits of nerve cells; and the collective function of brain systems in controlling behavior, perception, memory, cognition, and emotion.

Next Generation of Neuroprosthetics

“Decoding Motor Imagery from the Posterior Parietal Cortex of a Tetraplegic Human.” Science, 348 (6237). pp. 906-910. ISSN 0036-8075.

By Afllalo, Tyson and Kellis, Spencer and Klaes, Christian and Lee, Brian and Shi, Ying and Pejsa, Kelsie and Shanfield, Kathleen and Hayes-Jackson, Stephanie and Aisen, Mindy and Heck, Christi and Liu, Charles and Andersen, Richard A. (2015).

Video published on May 21, 2015 by Caltech.

Richard Andersen, PhD – Caltech

James G. Boswell Professor of Neuroscience, California Institute of Technology

Dr. Andersen studies the neurobiological underpinnings of brain processes including the senses of sight, hearing, balance and touch, the neural mechanisms of action, and the development of neural prosthetics. He has trained 60 postdoctoral and doctoral students who now work in academia and industry; 35 currently hold tenure or tenure track faculty positions at major research universities throughout the world. He has published approximately 140 technical articles and edited two books.

Integrating neural interfaces & machine intelligence for prosthetics

Principal Investigators: Charles Liu, PhD - USC; Kapil Katyal, PhD - JHU; Richard Andersen, PhD - Caltech
Title: Integrating neural interfaces and machine intelligence for advanced neural prosthetics
BRAIN Category: Neuroengineering and Brain-inspired concepts and design

This collaborative project will decode high-level cognitive actions from neural signals recorded in the parietal cortex of a tetraplegic human, then carry out those intents using a smart robotic prosthesis. Experimental results will be used to construct BMI control algorithms optimized to decode these cognitive signals.

Ultrasonic neuromodulation in vivo

PI: Doris Ying Tsao
California Institute of Technology
Title: "Dissecting human brain circuits in vivo using ultrasonic neuromodulation"
BRAIN category: Next Generation Human Imaging (RFA MH-14-217)

In rodents, monkeys and eventually humans, Dr. Tsao's team will explore use of non-invasive, high resolution ultrasound to impact neural activity deep in the brain and modify behavior.

Doris Ying Tsao, PhD – Caltech

Professor of biology and biological engineering at Caltech
Director, Tsao Lab

Doris Ying Tsao is a systems neuroscientist interested in the neural mechanisms underlying primate vision i.e. how visual objects are represented in the brain, and how these representations are used to guide behavior. She is investigating mechanisms at multiple stages in the visual hierarchy. Techniques we use include: electrophysiology, fMRI, electrical microstimulation, anatomical tracing, psychophysics, and mathematical modeling.

Mapping Sensory-Motor Pathways

Principal Investigator: Michael Dickinson
Caltech Neuroscience
Title: "Integrative Functional Mapping of Sensory-Motor Pathways"
BRAIN Category: Understanding Neural Circuits (RFA NS-14-009)

Dr. Dickinson will lead an interdisciplinary team to study how the brain uses sensory information to guide movements, by recording the activity of individual neurons from across the brain in fruit flies, as they walk on a treadmill and see and smell a variety of sights and odors

David Anderson, PhD – Caltech

Seymour Benzer Professor of Biology
Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Member of the Advisory Committee to the NIH Director

Dr. Anderson's lab focus is on understanding how emotional behavior is encoded in the brain, at the level of specific neuronal circuits, and the specific neuronal subtypes that comprise them. The lab seeks to understand the structure and dynamic properties of these circuits and how they give rise to the outward behavioral expressions of emotions such as fear, anxiety or anger.

How flies fly: Michael Dickinson

Professor of Biomedical Engineering; Chair for Engineering in Medicine; Director, Institute for Engineering in Medicine; and Director, Center for Neuroengineering

Turning off Parkinson’s and depression

Deep brain stimulation is becoming very precise. This technique allows surgeons to place electrodes in almost any area of the brain, and turn them up or down -- like a radio dial or thermostat -- to correct dysfunction. Andres Lozano offers a dramatic look at emerging techniques, in which a woman with Parkinson's instantly stops shaking and brain areas eroded by Alzheimer's are brought back to life.

Filmed January 2013 at TEDs Caltech 2013
Uploaded to YouTube on June 12,, 2013 by TED

Your brain is more than a bag of chemicals

"Modern psychiatric drugs treat the chemistry of the whole brain, but neurobiologist David Anderson believes in a more nuanced view of how the brain functions. He illuminates new research that could lead to targeted psychiatric medications -- that work better and avoid side effects. How's he doing it? For a start, by making a bunch of fruit flies angry"

Filmed January 2013 at TEDx Caltech 2013
Uploaded to YouTube on March 12, 2013 by TED

Biophotonics Laboratory – Caltech

Principal Investigator: Changhuei Yang
Caltech Neuroscience

The Biophotonics Laboratory is focused on the development of novel tools that combine optics and microfluidics to tackle diagnostic and measurement problems in biology and medicine. The major techniques that are under development in the laboratory include the ePetri, Fourier Ptychographic microscopy, and time-reversal optical focusing.

Changhuei Yang, PhD – Caltech

Professor of Electrical Engineering, Bioengineering and Medical Engineering
Director, Biophotonics Lab

Professor Yang's research efforts are in the areas of novel microscopy development and time-reversal based optical focusing. Prof. Yang's group is developing a number of technologies aimed at transforming the conventional microscope into high throughput, automated and cost-effective formats. Prof. Yang's group is working on the use of 'time-reversal' techniques to undo the effect of tissue light scattering.

Roukes Group – CalTech

Director: Michael Roukes
Caltech Neuroscience

The Roukes Group is working to explore new physics at the nanoscale, and to apply this knowledge to realizing advanced tools for the biomedical and life sciences. Our group's current focus is on (a) next-gen methods for neuroscience enabled by very-large-scale integration of nanoelectronic and nanophotonic devices, (b) single-molecule mass spectrometry and molecular analysis enabled by arrays of nanoelectromechanical systems (NEMS), and (c) on the fundamental physics of NEMS.

Michael Roukes, PhD – CalTech

Professor of Physics, Applied Physics, and Bioengineering, CalTech Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences
Director, Roukes Group

Roukes research activities are currently focused on developing advanced nanodevices, engineering them into complex systems, and using them to enable fundamental problems in neuroscience and proteomics. A continuing thread in theoretical and experimental investigations focuses on fundamental properties of nanomechanical systems.

Dickinson Lab – Caltech

Principal Investigator, Michael Dickinson
Caltech Neuroscience

The Dickinson Lab studies the neural and biomechanical basis of behavior in the fruit fly, Drosophila. We strive to build an integrated model of behavior that incorporates an understanding of morphology, neurobiology, muscle physiology, physics, and ecology. Although our research focuses primarily on flight control, we are interested in how animals transform sensory information into a code that controls motor output and behavior.

Michael Dickinson, PhD – Caltech

Zarem Professor of Bioengineering, Caltech Neuroscience
Director, Dickinson Lab

The aim of Dickinson's research is to elucidate the means by which flies accomplish their aerodynamic feats. A rigorous mechanistic description of flight requires an integration of biology, engineering, fluid mechanics, and control theory. The long term goal, however, is not simply to understand the material basis of insect flight, but to develop its study into a model that can provide insight to the behavior and robustness of complex systems in general.

Tsao Lab – Caltech

Principal Investigator: Doris Ying Tsao
California Institute of Technology

Tsao Lab explores the neural mechanisms underlying primate vision: how visual objects are represented in the brain, and how these representations are used to guide behavior. How does the brain stitch together pixels into invariant, discrete recognizable objects in space? This is the problem our lab is trying to solve. We are tackling it through study of the monkey brain, the mouse brain, and mathematical modeling. In addition, we are developing a new technique to study the human brain.

Modular nanophotonic probes

Principal Investigator: Michael Roukes
Caltech Neuroscience
Title: "Modular nanophotonic probes for dense neural recording at single-cell resolution"
BRAIN Category: Large-Scale Recording-Modulation - New Technologies (RFA NS-14-007)

Dr. Roukes and his team propose to build ultra-dense, light-emitting and -sensing probes for optogenetics, which could simultaneously record the electrical activity of thousands of neurons in any given region of the brain.

Time-Reversal Optical Focusing

Principal Investigator: Changhuei Yang
Caltech Neuroscience
Title: Time-Reversal Optical Focusing for Noninvasive Optogenetics
BRAIN Category: Large-Scale Recording-Modulation - New Technologies (RFA NS-14-007)

Dr. Yang's team plans to develop a light and sound system that will noninvasively shine lasers on individual cells deep within the brain and activate light-sensitive molecules to precisely guide neuronal firing.

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