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.
What’s that smell? Neuroscientists are figuring it out
October 2, 2018
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) Associate Professor Florin Albeanu and Professor Alexei Koulakov have received the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director’s Transformative Research Award for an innovative neuroscience research project on the olfactory system, one of the basic senses that is still quite mysterious. The project will study how the brain interprets smell, an...
Portrait of a Neuroscience Powerhouse
April 27, 2018
At noon every Tuesday from September through June, scenes from a revolution in neuroscience are playing out at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Week after week, over 100 scientists cram themselves into a ground-floor meeting room in the Beckman Laboratory. It’s standing-room only as everyone in the Neuroscience Program settles in to hear details of the...
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 was held on Wednesday, April 1 with the dedication of the Swartz Centers for Theoretical Neuroscience and Neural Mechanisms of Cognition. Jerry, co-founder and former CEO of Symbol Technologies was the 1999 recipient...
Universe to smelliverse with second-year student Daniel Kepple
October 8, 2014
This is the fourth in our series of Watson School student profiles. For many physicists, the big challenge is dark matter. Dark matter is thought to make up the large majority of mass in our universe, but it can’t be seen. Physicists know about dark matter from its effects on visible matter or radiation. But detecting these...
CSHL receives $50 million to establish Simons Center for Quantitative Biology
July 7, 2014
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) today announced a $50 million gift from Jim and Marilyn Simons to establish the Simons Center for Quantitative Biology. Cold Spring Harbor, NY — Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) today announced a $50 million gift from Jim and Marilyn Simons to establish the Simons Center for Quantitative Biology. The Center...
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 Cold Spring Harbor, NY — A new study from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) offers an explanation for why our brains produce fewer and fewer neurons with age, a phenomenon thought to underlie age-related...
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