How does the human brain work mechanistically and functionally?
Are there ways to improve cognitive performance?
What happens when something goes wrong in the brain, and can we fix it?
These questions have captivated both researchers in neuroscience and the general public. Moreover, answers to these questions will have the potential to profoundly impact our society, particularly as we live in this new era of information overload and face the challenges of an increasingly aging population.
MIT is home to numerous world-class laboratories at the forefront of neuroscience research. This webinar will feature two prominent neuroscientists at MIT discussing recent advancements in our understanding of brain functions. It will also highlight startups founded by the faculty speakers, demonstrating how their cutting-edge research can be applied to innovative approaches for treating brain disorders and enhancing cognitive performance. Join us in this session to gain valuable insights from world-renowned experts and stay up-to-date with the latest advancements in this fascinating field.
Hong Fan is a Program Director at the Office of Corporate Relations at MIT. She joined OCR in August 2016, brought with her 20+ years of international work experience across semiconductor, consumer electronics, telecom, and higher education.
Prior to joining OCR, Hong spent 12 years in the semiconductor industry with executive functions in strategic marketing, business development, corporate strategy, product management, and product marketing at Analog Devices and MediaTek. During those years, Hong played instrumental roles in identifying emerging business opportunities related to wireless communication networks, smartphones, wearable devices, Internet of Things (IoT), and medical devices and applications. She led cross-functional teams in defining and driving product and market strategy for businesses with annual revenue ranging from $30 million to $100 million.
Prior to joining the semiconductor industry, Hong spent 6 years in the telecommunications and electronics industry, leading engineering teams at companies such as Lucent Technologies and Watkins-Johnson Company for the development of digital signal processing, wireless communications, and micro-controller software.
Before coming to US, Hong was a strategic research staff at the President Office of Shanghai Jiao Tong University, one of the oldest universities in China. She was the first woman to hold this highly selective position.
Hong has a B.S in Electronic Engineering from Shanghai Jiao Tong University, an M.S. in Electrical Engineering from University of Maryland at College Park, and an MBA from Sloan School of Management at MIT. She received numerous academic honors and awards including the McKinsey & Co. Scholarship, the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, and the Shanghai Outstanding College Graduate Award.
Guoping Feng is the Poitras Professor of Neuroscience and Associate Director of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT. He is also the Director of Model Systems and Neurobiology at the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. His research is focused on understanding the molecular and cellular mechanisms regulating the development and function of synapses and circuits, which are the building blocks of neuron-neuron communication. His lab develops and applies cutting-edge technologies to reveal how synapse and circuit dysfunctions lead to abnormal brain functions and behaviors in neurodevelopmental and psychiatric disorders, and to explore novel strategies for developing effective therapeutics.
Dr. Feng obtained his medical training at Zhejiang University School of Medicine in Hangzhou, China and his PhD in molecular genetics at State University of New York at Buffalo. After his postdoctoral training at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, he joined faculty at Duke University School of Medicine in 2000. He joined MIT and Broad Institute in 2010. Dr. Feng has received many honors including Beckman Young Investigator Award, Gill Young Investigator Award, McKnight Neuroscience of Brain Disorders Award, McKnight Technological Innovations in Neuroscience Award, Scientific Innovation Award of Brain Research Foundation. He is an elected member of American Academy of Arts and Sciences and an elected fellow of American Association for the Advancement of Science. Dr. Feng is also a co-founder of Rugen Therapeutics, Neural Galaxy, Myro Therapeutics, and Emugen Therapeutics.
Brain disorders including psychiatric disorders and neurodegenerative disorders are some of the most common and debilitating health issues, yet we don’t have effective treatments for most of them, despite intensive research and drug development efforts. In fact, few mechanistically new therapeutics have been developed in the past 60 years. However, recent development of breakthrough technologies including genome-editing, single cell transcriptomics and functional actuators of cells and circuits has revolutionized our ways of studying brain function and dysfunction. I will use psychiatric disorders as an example to illustrate how these new technologies are fueling the development of new therapeutics for brain disorders.
Coach Wei is Co-founder and CEO of Neural Galaxy Inc., a brain science company that aims to conquer brain disorders. Previously, he co-founded three venture-backed tech startups in Boston area related to enterprise application development, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence (all of them have exited). He has extensive experience in innovation and entrepreneurship. He is inventor of 20+ patents, covering distributed computing, big data, intelligent systems, user experience, e-commerce, image and signal processing, and received awards such as “40 under 40,” “Interactive Experience Award,” and “The Most Innovative Cloud Technology”. He graduated from Tsinghua University and MIT.
This talk will introduce Parcellation-Oriented Individualized Neuromodulation Therapy (POINT), an innovative therapeutic approach to treat brain disorders. The talk will explain the scientific progress for brain functional parcellation, individualized neuromodulation, and clinical results.
Earl K. Miller is the Picower Professor of Neuroscience in The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He received his B.A. (summa cum laude, with honors) in Psychology from Kent State University in 1985. He received an M.A. (in 1987) and Ph.D. (in 1990) in Psychology and Neuroscience from Princeton University. Professor Miller was awarded an honorary doctorate (Doctor of Science, honoris causa) from Kent State University in 2020. Professor Miller studies the neural basis of executive brain functions, the ability to carry out goal-directed behavior using complex mental processes. Research topics include working memory, attention, decision-making and learning. The Miller Lab has shown how categories and concepts are learned, how multifunctional “mixed-selectivity” neurons endow the cortex with computational horsepower and flexibility, and how neural oscillations regulate neural communication and consciousness. This work has established a foundation upon which to construct more detailed, mechanistic accounts of cognition and its dysfunction in diseases such as autism, schizophrenia, and attention deficit disorder. Professor Miller is the recipient of a variety of awards and serves as editor, and on the editorial boards of, major journals in neuroscience, and on international advisory boards. His paper with Jonathan Cohen, (Miller and Cohen, 2001), which presented a new framework for understanding the prefrontal cortex, ranks fifth all-time in citations in neuroscience.
For a long time, the brain was believed to function like a clock, with specialized parts working together due to physical connections. However, in recent decades, our understanding has undergone a major shift. While the individual parts and anatomical connections are still important, we now know that many cognitive functions are driven by emergent properties – higher-level properties that arise from the interactions between the parts. One property is brain waves – oscillating rhythms of electrical activity that allow millions of neurons to self-organize and control our thoughts, much like a crowd doing "the wave." This new perspective has led to a deeper appreciation of the complexity of the brain and the importance of understanding how its various parts work together to create emergent properties and complex behaviors.
Joshua Sarmir is the CEO of SplitSage. He studied finance and computer science at Boston College and has cofounded multiple companies and has helped Fortune 500 companies and government agencies tackle significant challenges over his 25-year career. When presented with a problem, he sees opportunity. As a former executive of Raytheon, he helped commercialize research to help protect the safety of our military and bring innovation to companies like Apple. Today he brings the opportunity to leverage groundbreaking science from MIT to improve effectiveness and increase safety across many industries.
Many real-world situations require processing multiple pieces of visual information simultaneously. Drivers, pilots, mechanics, soldiers, and athletes must allocate attentional resources to crowded scenes or cluttered displays and extract relevant information from them. Discoveries by Earl K. Miller’s lab at MIT has shown that individuals have different visual perception capacities, or "bandwidths," in different parts of their visual field. The patented SplitSage process measures and maps each person's areas of high perceptual capacity, or "sweet spots," as well as areas of lower capacity, or "weak spots." By leveraging each person's unique cognitive profile, this approach can help them see more and miss less. In addition, SplitSage's approach can reflect an individual's cognitive state, providing a "breathalyzer for the mind" that assesses their current level of cognitive function. This can be particularly useful in situations where high cognitive function is essential, such as during critical decision-making or in safety-critical roles.