Quantitative and engineering approaches to neuroscience are particularly strong at Cornell.
Cornell is the birthplace of multiphoton microscopy and actively facilitates ties and research
collaborations between the life sciences and engineering. Theoretical and computational
approaches to neuroscience are supported by strengths in systems neuroscience and computational
biology as well as teragrid cluster computing resources managed by the Cornell Center for Advanced
Computing. Current research projects in this subfield incorporate both theory and experiments and include biophysical modeling of neurons and networks, dynamical systems, natural scenes analysis,
learning and memory models, neuromorphic engineering, multielectrode array recordings, and neural coding theory. Graduate students and postdocs often work across fields on multidisciplinary research projects.
Research areas: Systems Neuroscience, Learning & Memory, Olfaction Techniques: Electrophysiology, theoretical/computational modeling, behavior, pharmacology Organisms used: Rodents Research interests: My resaerch concerns how complex cognitive and perceptual phenomena can arise from, and be regulated by, cellular and neural circuit properties. Primarily using the sense of smell (olfaction), my students, colleagues, and I ask how learning, memory, expectation, and like processes shape the transformations performed on sensory inputs by relatively peripheral (i.e., experimentally accessible) cortical circuitry, and how these different transformations in turn influence behavior and subsequent learning. We triangulate on these questions using a range of techniques including electrophysiology, pharmacology, behavior and behavior genetics, and biophysically constrained computational modeling. Publications
Research areas: Systems and Computational Neuroscience, Motor Control and Learning Techniques:Single unit recordings of identified cell classes in small, freely moving animals, optogenetic and pharmacological manipulations of neural activity during behavior, two photon calcium imaging, intracellular electrophysiology, computational modeling and analysis. Organisms used: Songbirds
Research interests: I seek to understand how the basal ganglia brain circuit contributes to motor learning and behavior. My central hypothesis is that the basal ganglia implement reinformcement learning to mediate the acquisition of learned motor skills.
Research areas: Dynamical systems, population biology, neuroscience, animal locomotion Techniques:Theoretical investigation, development of computer methods, studies of nonlinear systems. Research interests: Dynamical systems theory studies long time behavior of systems governed by deterministic rules. Even the simplest nonlinear dynamical systems can generate phenomena of bewildering complexity. Because formulas that describe the behavior of a system seldom exist, we rely on computer simulation to show how initial conditions evolve for particular systems. In carrying out simulations with many different systems, common patterns have been observed repeatedly. One of the main goals of dynamical systems theory is to discover these patterns and characterize their properties. The theory can then be used as a basis for description and interpretation of the dynamics of specific systems. It can also be used as the foundation for numerical algorithms that seek to analyze system behavior in ways that go beyond simulation. Throughout the theory, dependence of dynamical behavior upon system parameters has been an important topic. Bifurcation theory is the part of dynamical systems theory that systematically studies how systems change with varying parameters.
Research areas: Brain-machine interface Techniques:Micro and nano fabrication, ultrasound, new materials for neural interfaces Organisms used: Manduca Sexta Research interests: The SonicMEMS Laboratory, directed by Prof. Amit Lal, uses micro and nanofabrication methods to realize probes that can provide new imaging capabilities and new treatments for tissues, with tissue sample sizes from the micron-cube to cm-cube scales. High intensity ultrasound capability enables tissue cutting and near-zero penetration force in tissues. Integrated electrical electrodes for measuring bio-potentials have also been used to measure dielectric properties of tissue. Integrated strain-gauges on the probes can measure the contact forces and strain fields. We are using the probe technology to realize neural probes with integrated strain gauges to measure the microscale electromagnetic environment of the neural interface, a study intended to improve the reliability of brain-machine interfaces.
Research areas: Biophysics; exocytosis; mechanisms of vesicle fusion and transmitter release. Techniques used: Patch clamp technique, amperometry using a carbon fiber electrode Organisms used: Rodents Research interests: The mechanisms of exocytosis and endocytosis represent one of the most exciting topics in cell biology. The process of regulated exocytosis is responsible for release of neurotransmitters and neuropeptides by nerve terminals and endocrine cells, release of enzymes or cytotoxic proteins by granulocytes, release of histamine and other mediators by mast cells, as well as several other secretory processes. During exocytosis the membrane of secretory granules fuses with the plasma membrane of the cell, allowing the secretory granules to release their contents through the fusion pore. Although biochemical studies revealed a set of proteins that are somehow involved, the mechanisms of fusion are still obscure. Functional studies of the fusion processes have revealed details of the dynamics of the fusion events and the combination of functional and biochemical techniques will be central to further elucidate the mechanism of exocytosis. We use a combination of molecular, biophysical and computational approaches to elucidate the molecular mechanisms of vesicle-plasma membrane tethering, fusion and transmitter release.
Research areas: Behavioral Neuroscience, Computational Neuroscience Techniques: Computational modeling, behavioral pharamcology, in vivo electrophysiology Organisms used: Rodents Research interests: Neural coding and memory in the olfactory system; emphasis on neuromodulatory influences; combined approach using behavior, electrophysiology and computational modeling. Publications
Research areas: Electrical enginering, systems neuroscience Techniques: ECE, Neurobiology and Behavior Research interests: I am interested in nanoscale circuitry of all sorts, including transistor circuits manufactured in silicon and biological circuits of the nervous system. In silicon, I am especially interested in RF and mixed-signal integrated circuits, especially focusing on highly integrated, low-power system design. On the biological side, I am presently focusing primarily on understanding the neuronal code of the mammalian retina and uncovering the neural circuitry that underlies that code. I plan to bring these interests together in several ways. One is to work on developing the circuits and systems for improving the acquisition and subsequent handling of large quantities of data from massive multielectrode arrays. This could be combined with low power wireless design to build chronic wireless implants handling data from 100s of electrodes. At the same time, understanding the workings of neuronal circuits can inspire new silicon circuit ideas.
Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and Mathematics
Research areas: Applied and bio mathematics, biomechanics, differential equations and dynamical systems, dynamics and nonlinear systems. Techniques:Theoretical investigation, development of computer methods, studies of nonlinear systems. Research interests: Current research work involves using perturbation methods and bifurcation theory to obtain approximate solutions to differential equations arising from nonlinear dynamics problems in engineering and biology. Current projects involve differential delay equations, differential equations with fractional derivatives and dynamics of coupled oscillators. Bio applications include evolutionary dynamics, dynamics of gene copying, effects of biorhythms on retinal dynamics, cardiac arrythmias, and ecology of plant communities. These projects are typically conducted jointly with graduate students and with experts in the respective application area. Publications
Research areas: Imaging, disease, stroke Techniques: Chronic in vivo two-photon excited fluorescence microscopy, targeted ablation of biological structures with femtosecond laser pulses. Organisms used: Mice, rats, zebrafish Research interests: My lab develops and uses advanced optical techniques for in vivo studies of physiological processes in normal and diseased states. A primary area of current interest is the pathophysiology of small-scale stroke, which is thought to be caused by occlusions in the cerebral microvasculature and is linked to cognitive decline and increased incidence of neurodegenerative disorders. In an effort to model and understand these diseases, we occlude individual cerebral microvessels in rodent brain by optically injuring the vessel with femtosecond laser pulses, thereby triggering clotting. We then study the changes in flow in the vascular network as well as changes in the activity and health of downstream neurons using two-photon fluorescence microscopy. This work will determine the physiological consequences of cerebral microvessel lesions and, when combined with transgenic mice, will identify the role of such lesions in neurodegenerative disease. Projects include the development of nonlinear optical tools for novel surgical therapies for focal epilepsy, devising techniques for microscopic-scale imaging of myelin in the central nervous system, and optimizing optical techniques for delivering genetic material to a targeted cell. In addition, we have work on animal models of spinal cord injury, Alzheimer’s disease, myeloproliferative disorders, and cancer metastasis. Lab
Research areas: Systems and computational neuroscience; cognitive neuroscience; motivation and reward; learning and memory; psychiatric disease models. Techniques: Optogenetics, awake behaving neurophysiology, patch clamp electrophysiology, behavior, imaging, molecular biology, pharmacology, immunohistochemistry, computational modeling and analysis. Organisms used: Rodents Research interests: Our lab investigates the neural circuitry underlying complex cognition and behavior, with a focus on circuits mediating reward, motivation, and learning and memory. We study these systems with both an observational and causal approach, combining monitoring and decoding of neural activity with optical control of genetically and topologically defined circuit elements. We are interested in both normal circuit function and dysfunction in psychiatric disease models. Systems of particular interest include the prefrontal cortex and its communication with neuromodulatory and limbic regions. Publications Warden lab site