Cold Spring Harbor, NY — The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded Early Concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER) to two Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) neuroscientists. The researchers, Assistant Professor Florin Albeanu and Professor Partha Mitra, are working to develop new technologies that will provide insight into the structure and operation of neural circuits and address how complex behaviors emerge from them. The awards are part of President Barack Obama’s multi-year BRAIN Initiative, announced last year, which aims to answer fundamental questions about how the brain works.
Albeanu joined the CSHL faculty in 2008, with the goal of understanding how the activity patterns of neuronal circuits change during learning. His work explores how the brain interprets sensory information to shape perceptions and trigger complex behaviors in different contexts. Albeanu and his team use olfaction in mice as a model for brain function. They have developed a novel “patterned illumination” technique that allows them to reversibly control neuronal activity in select subsets of neurons and, in parallel, to probe how signals are transferred from the nose to different processing areas in the brain.
Mitra is working to develop an integrative picture of brain function, incorporating theory, informatics, and experimental work. He is founder of the Mouse Brain Architecture Project, an experimental effort to develop a brain-wide connectivity map of the mouse brain. The very large volumes of data generated by the project have given rise to new analytical challenges that are now being addressed. Mitra’s work extends to the interface of physics, engineering, and biology, where he is developing theories that will allow researchers to extract meaningful information about neural circuit function.
“Florin Albeanu and Partha Mitra are working at the edge of the technology limit in neuroscience, and are actively expanding the limits of what we can do to understand the ultimate mysteries of the mammalian brain’s structure and operations,” said CSHL President and CEO Dr. Bruce Stillman. ”On behalf of the faculty I congratulate them on winning EAGER awards, through which the NSF enables them to continue to innovate.”
This year, the NSF funded 36 research projects through EAGER, just one facet of the NSF’s support for the BRAIN Initiative. The award provides $300,000 over two years for the development of innovative conceptual and physical tools to advance neuroscience. The awards are intended to fund short-term, proof-of-concept projects with the prospect of high-payoffs.
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