Ed Boyden

Y. Eva Tan Professor in Neurotechnology, Howard Hughes Medical Institute and McGovern Institute, Departments of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Media Arts and Sciences, and Biological Engineering
Co-Director, MIT Center for Neurobiological Engineering
Affiliate member of the Picower Institute for Learnng and Memory

Contact Info

Office: 46-2171C
Phone: 617-324-3085

Administrative Assistant

Macey Lavoie
Office: E15-487
Phone: 617 715 4737

The brain is incredibly complex - each cubic millimeter of your brain contains perhaps a hundred thousand cells, connected by a billion synapses, each operating with millisecond precision. We develop tools that enable the mapping of the molecules and wiring of the brain, the recording and control of its neural dynamics, and the repair of its dysfunction. We distribute our tools as freely as possible to the scientific community, and also apply them to the systematic analysis of brain computations, aiming to reveal the fundamental mechanisms of brain function, and yielding new, ground-truth therapeutic strategies for neurological and psychiatric disorders.

Ed Boyden is Y. Eva Tan Professor in Neurotechnology at MIT, an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the MIT McGovern Institute, and professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Media Arts and Sciences, and Biological Engineering at MIT. He leads the Synthetic Neurobiology Group, which develops tools for analyzing and repairing complex biological systems such as the brain, and applies them systematically to reveal ground truth principles of biological function as well as to repair these systems. These technologies include expansion microscopy, which enables complex biological systems to be imaged with nanoscale precision; optogenetic tools, which enable the activation and silencing of neural activity with light; robotic methods for directed evolution that are yielding new synthetic biology reagents for dynamic imaging of physiological signals, such as neural voltage; novel methods of noninvasive focal brain stimulation; and new methods of nanofabrication using shrinking of patterned materials to create nanostructures with ordinary lab equipment. He co-directs the MIT Center for Neurobiological Engineering, which aims to develop new tools to accelerate neuroscience progress.

Amongst other recognitions, he has received the Wilhelm Exner Medal (2020), the Croonian Medal (2019), the Lennart Nilsson Award (2019), the Warren Alpert Foundation Prize (2019), the Rumford Prize (2019), the Canada Gairdner International Award (2018), the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences (2016), the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award (2015), the Carnegie Prize in Mind and Brain Sciences (2015), the Jacob Heskel Gabbay Award (2013), the Grete Lundbeck Brain Prize (2013), the NIH Director's Pioneer Award (2013), the NIH Director's Transformative Research Award (three times, 2012, 2013, and 2017), and the Perl/UNC Neuroscience Prize (2011). He was also named to the World Economic Forum Young Scientist list (2013) and the Technology Review World’s "Top 35 Innovators under Age 35" list (2006), and is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences (2019), the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2017), the National Academy of Inventors (2017), and the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (2018). His group has hosted hundreds of visitors to learn how to use new biotechnologies, and he also regularly teaches at summer courses and workshops in neuroscience, and delivers lectures to the broader public (e.g., TED (2011), TED Summit (2016), World Economic Forum (2012, 2013, 2016)).

Ed received his Ph.D. in neurosciences from Stanford University as a Hertz Fellow, working in the labs of Jennifer Raymond and Richard Tsien, where he discovered that the molecular mechanisms used to store a memory are determined by the content to be learned. In parallel to his PhD, as an independent side project, he co-invented optogenetic control of neurons, which is now used throughout neuroscience. Previously, he studied chemistry at the Texas Academy of Math and Science at the University of North Texas, starting college at age 14, where he worked in Paul Braterman's group on origins of life chemistry. He went on to earn three degrees in electrical engineering and computer science, and physics, from MIT, graduating at age 19, while working on quantum computing in Neil Gershenfeld's group. Long-term, he hopes that understanding how the brain generates the mind will help provide a deeper understanding of the human condition, and perhaps help humanity achieve a more enlightened state. His full CV is posted here.

Member, National Academy of Sciences
Member, American Academy of Arts and Sciences
Member, American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) College of Fellows
Royal Society Croonian Medal and Lecture, 2020
Warren Alpert Foundation Prize, 2019
Lennart Nilsson Award, 2019
Rumford Prize for Invention, 2019
Canada Gairdner International Award, 2018
Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, 2016
BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award, 2015
Society for Neuroscience Young Investigator Award, 2015
Carnegie Prize in Mind and Brain Sciences, 2015
Schuetze Award in Neuroscience, 2014
Jacob Heskel Gabbay Award, 2013
Grete Lundbeck European Brain Research Prize, 2013
AF Harvey Prize, 2012
Perl/UNC Prize, 2011

Featured publications are below. For a full list visit the lab website linked above.

April 4, 2019
Anthony J. Martorell, Abigail L. Paulson, Ho-Jun Suk, Fatema Abdurrob, Gabrielle T. Drummond, Webster Guan, Jennie Z. Young, David Nam-Woo Kim, Oleg Kritskiy, Scarlett J .Barker, Vamsi Mangena, Stephanie M. Prince, Emery N. Brown, Kwanghun Chung, Edward S. Boyden, Annabelle C. Singer, Li-Huei Tsai. Cell, 4 April 2019; Volume 177, Issue 2, P256-271.e22
November 13, 2017
Or A. Shemesh*, Dimitrii Tanese*, Valeria Zampini*, Changyang Linghu, Kiryl Piatkevich, Emiliano Ronzitti, Eirini Papagiakoumou, Edward S. Boyden+ and Valentina Emiliani+, Nature Neuroscience 20:1796–1806. (*, co-first authors; +, co-corresponding authors)
August 30, 2017
Ho-Jun Suk, Ingrid van Welie, Suhasa B. Kodandaramaiah, Brian Allen, Craig R. Forest, Edward S. Boyden, Neuron 95(5):1037-1047.
July 17, 2017
Zhao Y*, Bucur O*, Irshad H, Chen F, Weins A, Stancu AL, Oh EY, DiStasio M, Torous V, Glass B, Stillman IE, Schnitt SJ, Beck AH**, Boyden ES**, Nature Biotechnology 35(8):757-764. (*, co-first authors; **, co-corresponding authors)
June 1, 2017
Grossman N, Bono D, Dedic N*, Kodandaramaiah SB*, Rudenko A, Suk HJ, Cassara AM, Neufeld E, Kuster N, Tsai LH, Pascual-Leone A, Boyden ES, Cell 169(6):1029-1041. (* equal contribution)

With programmable pixels, novel sensor improves imaging of neural activity

June 7, 2024
Research Findings
New camera chip design allows for optimizing each pixel’s timing to maximize signal to noise ratio when tracking real-time visual indicator of neural voltage

How sensory gamma rhythm stimulation clears amyloid in Alzheimer’s mice

February 28, 2024
Research Findings
Stimulating a key brain rhythm with light and sound increases peptide release from interneurons, driving clearance of Alzheimer’s protein via the brain’s glymphatic system, new study suggests.

40 Hz vibrations reduce Alzheimer’s pathology, symptoms in mouse models

May 18, 2023
Research Findings
Tactile stimulation improved motor performance, reduced phosphorylated tau, preserved neurons and synapses and reduced DNA damage, a new study shows

Self-assembling proteins can store cellular “memories”

January 10, 2023
Research Findings
Using these engineered proteins, researchers can record histories that reveal when certain genes are activated or how cells respond to a drug.

Small studies of 40Hz sensory stimulation confirm safety, suggest Alzheimer’s benefits

December 1, 2022
Research Findings
MIT researchers report early stage clinical study results of tests with non-invasive 40Hz light and sound treatment

Microscopy technique reveals hidden nanostructures in cells and tissues

August 29, 2022
Research Findings
Separating densely packed molecules before imaging allows them to become visible for the first time

Down syndrome symposium highlights clinical, fundamental progress

November 20, 2020
Recent Events
Speakers describe studies to address Alzheimer’s disease, sleep apnea and to advance fundamental discoveries in cell and chromosome biology

BRAIN grant will fund new tools to study astrocytes

August 27, 2019
New Research
Sur lab will lead collaboration to create CRISPR, optogenetic innovations

Why visual stimulation may work against Alzheimer’s

May 7, 2019
Research Findings
New findings help explain the surprising discovery that exposure to flickering light reduces amyloid plaques in mice

Three from MIT elected to the National Academy of Sciences

May 1, 2019
Awards & Honors
Faculty members Edward Boyden, Paula Hammond, and Aviv Regev recognized for “distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.”

For an up-to-date listing please visit http://syntheticneurobiology.org/people