A portrait of 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

The Sur laboratory develops novel experimental and computational methods for analyzing brain activity, and uses them to study 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 brain is shaped by learning and memory, and its function is importantly modulated by internal states such as attention, through dynamic changes in information transmission and processing.

Brain processing is enabled by circuits comprised of excitatory and inhibitory neurons along with astrocytes, 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 define rules of synaptic and circuit plasticity in the developing cortex, and dynamics of activity in the adult cortex during information processing and learned behavior. We aim to utilize this understanding to discover mechanisms of brain disorders and propose novel therapeutics.

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

Our research is funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health [BRAIN Initiative, NEI, NINDS, NIMH], the National Science Foundation, the Multi-University Research Initiative (MURI), and the Simons Foundation.

Dr. Mriganka Sur is the Newton Professor of Neuroscience in The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory 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. His laboratory has discovered core functional rules of inhibitory-excitatory neuronal circuits in the cerebral cortex, and revealed dynamics of information processing across widespread cortical areas. The impact of these discoveries, which answer long-standing questions about computations underlying learning, decision-making and perception-action transformations, ranges from understanding dysregulation in brain disorders to brain architectures for next-generation AI.

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 Krieg Cortical Discoverer Prize, and delivered distinguished lectures world-wide. He has trained over 80 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, the Indian National Science Academy, and the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering.

  • 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
  • Elected Fellow, American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering
Featured publications are below. For a full list visit the lab website linked above.

October 20, 2021
Rikhye RV, Yildirim M, Hu M, Breton-Provencher V, Sur M. . J. Neurosci , 2021.
March 6, 2021
Sipe GO, Petravicz J, Rikhye RV, Garcia R, Mellios N, Sur M. Glia, 2021
November 26, 2020
Huda R, Sipe GO, Breton-Provencher V, Cruz KC, Pho GN, Adam E, Gunter LM, Sullins A, Wickersham IR, Sur M. Nature Communications, 2020.
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)

Livestreaming the Brain

March 15, 2024
Research Feature
To learn how the brain works, Picower Institute labs are advancing technologies and methods to watch it live as it happens

New grant to study possibility of an immunotherapy for autism

November 2, 2023
New Research
Picower Institute-based collaboration will study mechanisms that might enable peripheral immune cells to deliver a potentially therapeutic molecule to the brain.

Study decodes surprising approach mice take in learning

September 14, 2023
Research Findings
Neurotypical humans readily optimize performance in ‘reversal learning’ games, but while mice learn the winning strategy, they refuse to commit to it, a new study shows. The research provides a mathematical way to track the rodents’ more mixed tactics

From labs to the streets, experts work to defuse childhood threats to mental health

May 18, 2023
Picower Events
Symposium speakers describe numerous ways to promote prevention, resilience, healing and wellness after early life stresses

3 questions for Mriganka Sur: The basic research origin of the first approved drug to treat Rett syndrome

March 10, 2023
On March 10 the FDA approved Trofinetide, a drug based on the protein IGF-1, as the first drug available to treat Rett syndrome. The original research showing that IGF-1 could treat Rett syndrome was published by MIT in 2009.

Astrocyte cells critical for learning skilled movements

March 10, 2023
Research Findings
When astrocyte function is disrupted, neurons in the brain’s motor cortex struggle to execute and refine motion, a new study in mice shows.

The Brain Uses Calculus to Control Fast Movements

A man in a suit on a city street runs to catch up to a red bus at a stop.
November 28, 2022

To the clinic!

October 4, 2022
Research Feature
When fundamental research yields discoveries with medical potential, Picower Institute professors find ways to test whether they’ll help patients.

Advanced imaging reveals mired migration of neurons in Rett syndrome lab models

July 29, 2022
Research Findings
Using organoids to model early development, researchers used an emerging microscopy technology to see that new neurons struggled to reach their developmental destination

Sprint then stop? Brain is wired for the math to make it happen

July 28, 2022
Research Findings
To ensure a quick halt, brain circuit architecture avoids a slow process of integration in favor of quicker differentiation, study finds

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