Sherman Fairchild Professor in Neurobiology Matthew Wilson

Matthew Wilson

Sherman Fairchild Professor in Neurobiology
The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory
Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Contact Info

Office: 46-5233A
Phone: 617-253-2046

Administrative Assistant

James deMelo
Office: 46-5233
Phone: 617-253-2046

Research in the Wilson laboratory focuses on the study of information representation across large populations of neurons in the mammalian nervous system, as well as on the mechanisms that underlie formation and maintenance of distributed memories in freely behaving animals. To study the basis of these processes, the lab employs a combination of molecular genetic, electrophysiological, pharmacological, behavioral, and computational approaches. Using techniques that allow the simultaneous activity of ensembles of hundreds of single neurons to be examined in freely behaving animals, the lab examines how memories of places and events are encoded across networks of cells within the hippocampus a region of the brain long implicated in the processes underlying learning and memory.

These studies of learning and memory in awake, behaving animals have led to the exploration of the nature of sleep and its role in memory. Previous theories have suggested that sleep states may be involved in the process of memory consolidation, in which memories are transferred from short to longer-term stores and possibly reorganized into more efficient forms. Recent evidence has shown that ensembles of neurons within the hippocampus, which had been activated during behavior are reactivated during periods of dreaming. By reconstructing the content of these states, specific memories can be tracked during the course of the consolidation process.

Combining the measurement of ongoing neuronal activity with manipulation of molecular genetic targets has allowed the study of how specific cellular mechanisms regulate neural function to produce learning and memory at the behavioral level. Pharmacological blockage of these receptors has allowed the study of their involvement in the rapid changes that occur during both waking and sleeping states. Simultaneous monitoring of areas in the hippocampus and neocortex have allowed study of the downstream effects of activation.

Taken together, these approaches contribute to the overall research objective: to understand the link from cellular/subcellular mechanisms of plasticity, to neural ensemble representations and interactions, to learning, memory, behavior, and cognition.

Matthew A. Wilson received his Ph.D. in Computational and Neural Systems from the California Institute of Technology and completed his postdoctoral training at the University of Arizona. In 1994, he joined the faculty of the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT.

  • Achievement Rewards for College Scientists
  • Science Foundation Research Associate in Computational Neuroscience
  • Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow
  • Edward J. Poitras Assistant Professorship for Career Development
  • John Merck Scholars Award
  • Office of Naval Research Young Investigator
  • Middleton Neurosciences Award
  • Picower Scholar Award
  • Fellow of the¬†American¬†Association for the Advancement of Science
August 30, 2016
Chen Z, Grosmark AD, Penagos H, Wilson MA. Sci Rep. 2016 Aug 30;6:32193. doi: 10.1038/srep32193.

Decoding hidden dreams

August 30, 2016
Research Findings
Neuroscientists decrypt the sleeping brain to reveal hidden memories.

Jai Bhagat
Technical Associate

Tim Brawn
Postdoctoral Fellow

Josefina Correa-Menendez
Post-baccalaureate Student

James deMelo
Lab Manager

Pedro Feliciano
Postdoctoral Fellow

Maria Galazo
Postdoctoral Fellow

Wei Guo
Postdoctoral Associate

John Newman
Postdoctoral Fellow

Hector Penagos-Vargas
Research Scientist

Zev Rosen
Postdoctoral Fellow

Honi Sanders
Postdoctoral Associate

Carmen Varela
Research Scientist

Hannah Wirtshafter
Graduate Student

Jie Zhang
Postdoctoral Associate