Newton Professor of Neuroscience Mriganka Sur

Mriganka Sur

Newton Professor of Neuroscience
Investigator in The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory
Director, Simons Center for the Social Brain
Professor, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Contact Info

Office: 46-6237
Phone: 617-253-8784
Email: msur@mit.edu

Administrative Assistant

Alexandra Sokhina
Office: 46-6223
Phone: 617-324-7757

Cortical Plasticity and Dynamics

The Sur laboratory studies the development, plasticity and dynamics of circuits in the cerebral cortex of the brain. The developing brain requires a genetic blueprint but is also acutely sensitive to experience and the environment. The adult brain responds to external stimuli, and modulates these responses by internal states such as attention, through dynamic changes in information transmission and processing.

Brain processing is enabled by local and long-range cortical circuits, which are wired during development by mechanisms of plasticity and change during adulthood by mechanisms of learning and memory. Abnormal wiring of synapses and circuits lies at the core of many brain disorders. The goal of our laboratory is to understand long-term plasticity and short-term dynamics in circuits of the developing and adult cortex, and utilize this understanding to discover mechanisms underlying disorders of brain development.

Our laboratory studies these topics using state-of-the-art techniques. These include novel approaches for recording the activity and analyzing the structure of neurons, synapses and circuits of the cerebral cortex in vivo and in vitro, combined with molecular approaches to study cortical development and computational approaches to study information processing and dynamics.

Our research is funded by grants from the BRAIN Initiative/NINDS, NEI, NIMH, NSF and the Simons Foundation

Dr. Mriganka Sur is the Newton Professor of Neuroscience and Director of the Simons Center for the Social Brain at MIT, which he founded after 15 years as head of the MIT Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences. Dr. Sur studies the organization, plasticity and dynamics of the cerebral cortex of the brain using experimental and theoretical approaches. He has discovered fundamental principles by which networks of the cerebral cortex are wired during development and change dynamically during learning. His laboratory has identified gene networks underlying cortical plasticity, and pioneered high resolution imaging methods to study cells, synapses and circuits of the intact brain. His group has demonstrated novel mechanisms underlying disorders of brain development, and proposed innovative strategies for treating such disorders. Recently, his laboratory has discovered core functional rules of inhibitory-excitatory neuronal circuits in the cerebral cortex, and revealed dynamics of information flow and transformation across widespread cortical areas during goal-directed behavior.

Dr. Sur received the B. Tech. degree in Electrical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, and the PhD degree in Electrical Engineering from Vanderbilt University, Nashville. He has received numerous awards and honors, most recently the Cortical Discoverer Prize of the Cajal Club, and delivered distinguished lectures world-wide. He has trained over 75 doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows, and received awards for outstanding teaching and mentoring. At MIT, he has been recognized with the Sherman Fairchild and Newton Chairs. He is an elected Fellow of the Royal Society of the UK, the National Academy of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the World Academy of Sciences, and the Indian National Science Academy.

  • Charles Judson Herrick Award, American Association of Anatomists
  • Sigma Xi Distinguished Lecturer
  • Distinguished Alumnus Award, Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur
  • Elected Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences
  • Elected Fellow of the Royal Society, UK
  • Society for Neuroscience Special Lecture
  • Elected Fellow, Third World Academy of Sciences/Academy of Sciences of the Developing World
  • Elected Member, Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, USA
  • Distinguished Alumnus Award in the Psychological Sciences, Vanderbilt University
Featured publications are below. For a full list visit the lab website linked above.

January 14, 2019
Breton-Provencher V, Sur M.,Nature Neuroscience VOL 22, FEBRUARY 2019, 218–2
January 11, 2019
Yildirim M, Sugihara H, So PTC, Sur M. Nature Communications 10, Article number: 177 (2019)
July 3, 2018
Pho GN, Goard MJ, Woodson J, Crawford B, Sur M. Nature Communications (2018) 9:259
June 22, 2018
El-Boustani S, Ip JPK, Breton-Provencher V, Knott GW, Okuno H, Bito H, Sur M. Science 360, 1349–1354 (2018)
May 8, 2018
Ip JP, Mellios N, Sur M. Nature Reviews Neuroscience 19:368-382, 2018.

'What Were you Thinking?'

September 20, 2021
Research Feature
How brain circuits integrate many sources of context to flexibly guide behavior

Behind the scenes, brain circuit ensures vision remains reliable

September 8, 2021
As mice watched movies, scientists watched their brains to see how vision could be represented reliably. The answer is that consistency in representation is governed by a circuit of inhibitory neurons

Grant to help scientists test whether brain region is a key locus of learning

July 23, 2021
New Research
Long thought of as a generic alarm system, the locus coeruleus may actually be a sophisticated regulator of learning and behavior, an MIT team posits

In ‘minibrains,’ hindering key enzyme by different amounts has opposite growth effects

May 10, 2021
Research Findings
Surprising findings can help improve organoid cultures, explain role of GSK3-beta in brain development

Tiny brains grown in 3D-printed bioreactor

April 7, 2021
Research Findings
Small device contains wells to let small bits of tissue grow, develop, and be studied in real time

Neural networks need more than neurons, new project posits

March 4, 2021
New Research
With a new grant from the U.S. Army, a team of scientists will seek to enhance artificial intelligence by integrating brain cells called astrocytes

Genes & Disease

December 14, 2020
Research Feature
Picower scientists are making the dauntingly long but highly motivating climb between associating a gene with disease and developing potential treatments.

Cortex over reflex: Study traces circuits where executive control overcomes instinct

November 30, 2020
Research Findings
Anterior cingulate cortex overrides reflexive inclination of the superior colliculus when rules reqiure

Picower researcher earns BBRF Young Investigator grant

September 21, 2020
Picower People
Sur Lab postdoc Vincent Breton-Provencher will use award to study neurobiology underlying attention

Live imaging method brings structural information to mapping of brain function

September 17, 2020
Research Findings
Scientists distinguish brain regions based on what they do, but now have a new way to overlay information about how they are built

Elie Adam    
Postdoctoral Fellow

Vincent Breton-Provencher
Postdoctoral Fellow

Chloé Delepine
Postdoctoral Fellow

Tudor Dragoi
Research Support Associate

Gabrielle Drummond
Graduate Student

Karen Guadalupe Cruz
Graduate Student, BCS

Ming Hu    
Postdoctoral Associate

Rafiq Huda    
Postdoctoral Associate

Pak Kan Ip    
Postdoctoral Fellow

Taylor Johns
Technical Associate

Nhat Minh Le
Graduate Student

Ning Leow
Graduate Student

Keji Li    
Postdoctoral Fellow

Marvin Nayan
Postdoctoral Fellow

Vincent Pham    
Technical Associate

Eleana Ricci
Program Administrator, SBCS

Jitendra Sharma    
Research Scientist

Jennifer Shih
Postdoctoral Fellow

Grayson Oren Sipe    
Postdoctoral Fellow

Hiroki Sugihara    
Research Scientist

Austin Sullins  
Technical Associate

Xin Tang    
Research Affiliate

Hayley Tsang  
Postdoctoral Fellow

Katya Tsimring
Graduate Student

Murat Yildirim    
Postdoctoral Associate