The complexity of the mammalian brain challenges our ability to explain it. My group applies methods from mathematics and theoretical physics to understand the brain. We are generating novel ideas about neural computation and brain development, including how neurons process information, how brain networks assemble during development, and how brain architecture evolved to facilitate its function.
Alexei Koulakov and colleagues are trying to determine the mathematical rules by which the brain assembles itself, with particular focus on the formation of sensory circuits such as those involved in visual perception and olfaction. The visual system of the mouse was chosen for study in part because its components, in neuroanatomical terms, are well understood. What is not known is how projections are generated that lead from the eye through the thalamus and into the visual cortex, how an individual’s experience influences the configuration of the network, and what parameters for the process are set by genetic factors. Even less is known about the assembly of the neural net within the mouse olfactory system, which, in the end, enables the individual to distinguish one smell from another with astonishing specificity and to remember such distinctions over time. These are among the challenges that engage Koulakov and his team.
There’s more to smell than meets the nose
July 22, 2019
Neuroscience researchers work to figure out our brains process smells, including what features are essential to identifying and separating odors.
Quantifying how the brain smells
July 22, 2019
Neuroscience researchers at CSHL are trying to figure out how the brain processes smells and what features of odors are important in that process.
What’s that smell? Neuroscientists are figuring it out
October 2, 2018
Neuroscientists Florin Albeanu and Alexei Koulakov win the NIH Director’s Transformative Research Award for their project on the olfactory system
Portrait of a Neuroscience Powerhouse
April 27, 2018
A relatively small neuroscience group at CSHL is having an outsized impact on a dynamic and highly competitive field
Swartz Centers dedication
April 1, 2015
An official recognition of Jerome Swartz for his 25+ years of friendship and generous support of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory neuroscience programs.
Universe to smelliverse with second-year student Daniel Kepple
October 8, 2014
Daniel Kepple hopes to figure out the chemical and neuronal rules that determine what something smells like.
CSHL receives $50 million to establish Simons Center for Quantitative Biology
July 7, 2014
CSHL announced a $50 million gift from Jim and Marilyn Simons to establish the Simons Center for Quantitative Biology.
Study identifies stem cell-related changes that may contribute to age-related cognitive decline
May 5, 2011
Age-related drop in new neurons may be due to “single use” or “disposable” nature of adult stem cells in the brain.
Koulakov, A. A. and Chklovskii, D. B. (2002) Direction of motion maps in the visual cortex: a wire length minimization approach. Neurocomputing, 44 pp. 489-494.
Koulakov, A. A. and Raghavachari, S. and Kepecs, A. and Lisman, J. E. (2002) Model for a robust neural integrator. Nature Neuroscience, 5(8) pp. 775-782.
Koulakov, A. A. (2001) Properties of synaptic transmission and the global stability of delayed activity states. Network, 12(1) pp. 47-74.
Koulakov, A. A. and Chklovskii, D. B. (2001) Orientation preference patterns in mammalian visual cortex: A wire length minimization approach. Neuron, 29(2) pp. 519-527.Additional materials of the author at
CSHL Institutional Repository