Disorders Research

Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias are neurodegenerative conditions characterized by a progressive loss of some mental functions, such as memory loss and cognitive decline. Through fundamental research on how the brain stores and recalls memory and on the biology of neurodegeneration, Picower researchers are developing crucial insights and working to translate them into potential therapies.

Emery N. Brown

Edward Hood Taplin Professor of Computational Neuroscience and Health Sciences & Technology
Brown lab research contributes to understanding the neuroscience of how anesthetics act in the brain to create the states of general anesthesia. Brown has developed signal processing algorithms to solve important data analysis challenges in neuroscience.

Li-Huei Tsai

Picower Professor of Neuroscience
The Tsai lab is interested in elucidating the pathogenic mechanisms underlying neurological disorders that impact learning and memory by taking a multidisciplinary approach to investigate the molecular, cellular, and circuit basis of neurodegenerative disorders.

Susumu Tonegawa

Picower Professor of Biology and Neuroscience
With cutting-edge neuroscience techniques, the Tonegawa lab unravels the molecular, cellular, and neural circuit mechanisms that underlie learning and memory. Studies bridge basic science and disease models to causally dissect how memory works and breaks down.

Scientists eager to explain brain rhythm boost’s broad impact in Alzheimer’s models

December 9, 2019
Research findings
Paper lays out new areas of investigation

Tsai elected fellow of National Academy of Inventors

December 3, 2019
Picower People
Honor notes innovations in research addressing Alzheimer’s disease

In Alzheimer’s research, MIT scientists reveal brain rhythm role

October 22, 2019
At 'SFN'
At Society for Neuroscience meeting, Li-Huei Tsai presents latest findings on sensory stimulation of gamma rhythm

Fundamental questions find advanced answers, approaches at Fall Symposium

October 18, 2019
Events
Experts from around the world discuss "Neural Mechanisms of Memory and Cognition"

Memory and its meaning

October 7, 2019
News Feature
25 Years of Picower Institute research

Study pinpoints Alzheimer’s plaque emergence early and deep in the brain

October 4, 2019
Research findings
Amyloid emerges early in deep regions such as the mammillary body and marches outward along specific circuits

MIT sets out to model Alzheimer’s disease complexity on a chip

October 3, 2019
New Research
Integrating patient-derived brain cell types with vasculature, computer models will yield powerful research platform

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

A comprehensive map of how Alzheimer’s affects the brain

May 1, 2019
Research findings
Analysis of genes altered by the disease could provide targets for new treatments

Brain wave stimulation may improve Alzheimer’s symptoms

March 14, 2019
Research findings
Noninvasive treatment can improve Alzheimer’s symptoms such as memory loss and amyloid plaque buildup in mice.

Blending big data and benchtop biology, Tsai and Kellis labs tackle brain diseases

February 21, 2019
News Feature
With new grants, collaboration will take on new questions of dementia

Tsai earns Hans Wigzell Research Foundation Science Prize

January 23, 2019
Picower People
Award recognizes Alzheimer's disease research

With fellowship, postdoc will work to solve Alzheimer’s myelin mystery

November 8, 2018
Picower People
Joel Blanchard wins 2018 Glenn Foundation for Medical Research Postdoctoral Fellowship in Aging Research

With sense of humility, responsibility new MIT postdoc begins HHMI fellowship

September 12, 2018
Picower People
Matheus Victor earns support for next eight years

Neuroscientists discover roles of gene linked to Alzheimer’s

May 31, 2018
Research Findings
Study reveals why people with the APOE4 gene have higher risk of the disease

Symposium speaks to the many powers of brain rhythms

April 9, 2018
Events
11 experts convened at Picower April 4

Making waves for health

March 1, 2018
News feature
Innovative insights, methods raise clnical potential of instilling brain waves

With new grant, MIT neuroscientists will give 'invisible' cells a new look

February 8, 2018
New research
Astrocytes may 'partner' with neurons to process information

MIT Team Reveals What Happens to Brain Immune Cells During Alzheimer’s Development

December 7, 2017
In the news

A Ray of Hope in the Fight Against Alzheimer's Disease

November 16, 2017
Interview

Cellular reprograming implicated in model of Alzheimer's disease

October 17, 2017
Research Findings
Neuroscientists identify genetic changes in microglia in a mouse model of neurodegeneration and Alzheimer's disease.

Blocking a key enzyme may reverse memory loss

August 8, 2017
Research Findings
MIT study suggests a new approach to developing treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.

Unique visual stimulation may be new treatment for Alzheimer’s

December 7, 2016
Research Findings
Noninvasive technique reduces beta amyloid plaques in mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease.

Li-Huei Tsai receives Society for Neuroscience Mika Salpeter Lifetime Achievement Award

December 2, 2016
Awards
Picower Institute director awarded for her research on brain development, neurological disorders, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Creating therapies for Alzheimer's disease by targeting neural circuits

November 9, 2016
Research Findings
Study finds a complex series of molecular, cellular, circuit and network-level changes contribute to the progression of Alzheimer's.

Anxiety Disorders

In the brain, neural circuits mediate senses of reward and aversion, memory and behavior. Perturbations in these circuits may result in disease states such as anxiety. By studying the anatomy, function and dynamics of these circuits in regions such as the amygdala, as well as their connections with other regions, Picower scientists are unraveling the bases of these disorders.

Susumu Tonegawa

Picower Professor of Biology and Neuroscience
With cutting-edge neuroscience techniques, the Tonegawa lab unravels the molecular, cellular, and neural circuit mechanisms that underlie learning and memory. Studies bridge basic science and disease models to causally dissect how memory works and breaks down.

Study finds the circuits that may help you keep your cool

January 14, 2019
Research findings
Prefrontal cortex may be able to regulate arousal in locus coreuleus

Dopamine primes the brain for enhanced vigilance

November 7, 2018
Research findings
Neuroscientists discover a circuit that helps redirect attention to focus on potential threats

Kay Tye receives NIH Pioneer Award

October 5, 2017
Awards
The award will be used to map the neural circuitry of social interactions and develop a mathematical model for complex group behaviors.

Kay Tye improvises to understand our inner lives

October 4, 2017
Recognition
Tweaking neurons in lab animals could help reveal what makes us individuals

Brain circuit enables split-second decisions when cues conflict

April 24, 2017
Research Findings
New findings shed light on how we quickly assess risks and rewards before acting.

Scientists identify brain circuit that drives pleasure-inducing behavior

March 22, 2017
Research Findings
Surprisingly, the neurons are located in a brain region thought to be linked with fear.

Kay Tye Receives the Society for Neuroscience Young Investigator Award

November 15, 2016
Awards
Picower Neuroscientist recognized for her work on emotional circuitry of the brain.

Kay Tye receives Freedman Prize for Exceptional Basic Research

August 3, 2016
Awards
Neuroscientist recognized by the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation for project on neural circuits for anxiety control.

Autism Spectrum Disorders

Autism refers to a group of developmental disorders typically affecting behaviors including social interaction. Picower researchers study the neurobiology underlying a variety of forms of autism, including genetic anomalies and other ways that synapses and neural circuits may develop differently. Their studies extend to the level of cognitive functions and associated systems.

Earl K. Miller

Picower Professor of Neuroscience
Miller’s lab studies the neural mechanisms of attention, learning, and memory needed for voluntary, goal-directed behavior. The lab explores prefrontal function by employing a variety of techniques including multiple-electrode neurophysiology, psychophysics, pharmacological manipulations, and computational techniques.

Gloria Choi

Samuel A. Goldblith Career Development Assistant Professor of Applied Biology
Choi’s lab studies the interaction of the immune system with the brain and the effects of that interaction on neurodevelopment, behavior and mood.

Li-Huei Tsai

Picower Professor of Neuroscience
The Tsai lab is interested in elucidating the pathogenic mechanisms underlying neurological disorders that impact learning and memory by taking a multidisciplinary approach to investigate the molecular, cellular, and circuit basis of neurodegenerative disorders.

Mark Bear

Picower Professor of Neuroscience
Bear’s lab studies how experience and deprivation modify synaptic connections in the brain. Experience-dependent synaptic plasticity is the physical substrate of memory and sculpts connections during postnatal development to determine the capabilities and limitations of brain functions.

Michael Halassa

Assistant Professor, Department of Brain & Cognitive Sciences
Michael Halassa is a neuroscientist and psychiatrist who aims to understand the basic circuit mechanisms of how information is routed in the brain and how disruptions in these circuits can lead to neurological and psychiatric disorders.

Mriganka Sur

Newton Professor of Neuroscience
The goal of the Sur laboratory is to understand long-term plasticity and short-term dynamics in circuits of the developing and adult cortex, and to utilize this understanding to discover mechanisms underlying disorders of brain development.

Troy Littleton

Menicon Professor in Neuroscience
Littleton studies how neurons form synaptic connections, how synapses transmit information, and how synapses change during learning and memory. The research combines molecular biology, protein biochemistry, electrophysiology, and imaging approaches with Drosophila genetics.

Fundamental questions find advanced answers, approaches at Fall Symposium

October 18, 2019
Events
Experts from around the world discuss "Neural Mechanisms of Memory and Cognition"

Speeding up drug discovery for brain diseases

July 31, 2019
Research Findings
Whitehead, Picower team finds drugs that activate a key brain gene; initial tests show promise for rare, untreatable neurodevelopmental disorder

Neuroscientists look to the body to better understand the brain

July 1, 2019
News Feature
Studies yield new insights into behavior, development, anesthesia

New faculty member studies immune system effect on the brain

February 20, 2019
Picower People
Gloria Choi's research has connected maternal infection with neurodevelopmental disorders

As brain extracts meaning from vision, study tracks progression of processing

July 10, 2018
Research Findings
Six brain regions participate in a more blended way than has been appreciated

Study IDs important role for specific gene in 16p11.2 deletion autism

March 20, 2018
Research Findings
Study finds MVP protein needed for homeostatic plasticity

With new grant, MIT neuroscientists will give 'invisible' cells a new look

February 8, 2018
New research
Astrocytes may 'partner' with neurons to process information

Improved Social Interaction and Cognition in Mouse Models of Autism Spectrum Disorder

October 26, 2017
Research Findings
Studies in mice show promise for human treatment of 16p11.2 deletion syndrome

Studies help explain link between autism, severe infection during pregnancy

September 13, 2017
Research findings
Bacterial populations in mother’s GI tract may play a central role.

How severe maternal inflammation can lead to autism-like behavior

January 28, 2016
Research findings
Immune molecules in infected mothers tied to brain and behavior abnormalities in offspring.

Down Syndrome

Down syndrome is the most common chromosomal disorder diagnosed in the U.S. and the leading cause of developmental disabilities worldwide. Picower research on the disorder includes creating stem cell lines and lab tissues, providing new insights into the molecular and cell biology of the disorder, and studying systems level interventions.

Li-Huei Tsai

Picower Professor of Neuroscience
The Tsai lab is interested in elucidating the pathogenic mechanisms underlying neurological disorders that impact learning and memory by taking a multidisciplinary approach to investigate the molecular, cellular, and circuit basis of neurodegenerative disorders.

Down syndrome symposium highlights potential progress at many scales

November 14, 2019
Events
The inaugural symposium of the Alana Down Syndrome Center

Alana gift to MIT launches Down syndrome research center, technology program for disabilities

March 20, 2019
New Research Center
Foundation’s $28.6 million gift will fund science, innovation, education to advance understanding, ability, inclusion.

Early Life Stress

Early-life or “toxic” stress can significantly affect neural development and behavior. Picower Institute research includes the effects of genetic and environmental adversity in early development and many scientists also closely study the more general question of how experience changes the brain.

Mark Bear

Picower Professor of Neuroscience
Bear’s lab studies how experience and deprivation modify synaptic connections in the brain. Experience-dependent synaptic plasticity is the physical substrate of memory and sculpts connections during postnatal development to determine the capabilities and limitations of brain functions.

Mriganka Sur

Newton Professor of Neuroscience
The goal of the Sur laboratory is to understand long-term plasticity and short-term dynamics in circuits of the developing and adult cortex, and to utilize this understanding to discover mechanisms underlying disorders of brain development.

Troy Littleton

Menicon Professor in Neuroscience
Littleton studies how neurons form synaptic connections, how synapses transmit information, and how synapses change during learning and memory. The research combines molecular biology, protein biochemistry, electrophysiology, and imaging approaches with Drosophila genetics.

Study finds the circuits that may help you keep your cool

January 14, 2019
Research findings
Prefrontal cortex may be able to regulate arousal in locus coreuleus

Fighting toxic stress tough but possible, symposium speakers say

May 14, 2018
Events
'You have to really take the time to understand'

Studies help explain link between autism, severe infection during pregnancy

September 13, 2017
Research findings
Bacterial populations in mother’s GI tract may play a central role.

Huntington's Disease

Huntington’s disease is an inherited, progressive, neurodegenerative disorder associated with mutation of the Huntingtin protein results in wide-ranging motor, cognitive and behavioral symptoms. Work at the Picower Institute involves advancing the understanding of how the mutation gives rise to these consequences.

Myriam Heiman

Latham Career Development Chair
Many neurodegenerative diseases begin with the loss of select groups of cells. Understanding select group vulnerability may help identify root causes and novel therapeutic targets. Heiman’s lab studies selective vulnerability and pathophysiology in Huntington’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

Troy Littleton

Menicon Professor in Neuroscience
Littleton studies how neurons form synaptic connections, how synapses transmit information, and how synapses change during learning and memory. The research combines molecular biology, protein biochemistry, electrophysiology, and imaging approaches with Drosophila genetics.

MIT biologists discover an unusual hallmark of aging in neurons

November 27, 2018
Research findings
Snippets of RNA that accumulate in brain cells could interfere with normal function

Mood Disorders

Mood disorders including depression and bipolar disorder are complex in how they affect emotion in the brain. Picower researchers investigate many aspects of these disorders including the circuits, regions and neuromodulators that are relevant in how they are manifested differently in disease.

Elly Nedivi

William R. (1964) & Linda R. Young Professor of Neuroscience
Nedivi’s lab investigates the cellular mechanisms of activity-dependent plasticity through studies of synaptic and neuronal remodeling, identification of participating genes, and characterization of the cellular functions of the proteins they encode.

Steven Flavell

Assistant Professor of Neuroscience
Neural operations occur in milliseconds, yet the brain generates behaviors that can last hours. Flavell’s lab studies how neural circuits generate sustained behavioral states, and how physiological and environmental information is integrated into these circuits.

Susumu Tonegawa

Picower Professor of Biology and Neuroscience
With cutting-edge neuroscience techniques, the Tonegawa lab unravels the molecular, cellular, and neural circuit mechanisms that underlie learning and memory. Studies bridge basic science and disease models to causally dissect how memory works and breaks down.

Study shows how specific gene variants may raise bipolar disorder risk

January 9, 2019
Research findings
Findings could help inform new therapies, improve diagnosis

Dopamine primes the brain for enhanced vigilance

November 7, 2018
Research findings
Neuroscientists discover a circuit that helps redirect attention to focus on potential threats

Kay Tye receives NIH Pioneer Award

October 5, 2017
Awards
The award will be used to map the neural circuitry of social interactions and develop a mathematical model for complex group behaviors.

Parkinson's disease

Parkinson’s disease is associated with a loss of dopamine-producing neurons, resulting in tremor and other difficulties in motor control. Research at the Picower Institute includes studies to understand how cells become susceptible in the disease as the brain ages and on improving therapeutic approaches.

Li-Huei Tsai

Picower Professor of Neuroscience
The Tsai lab is interested in elucidating the pathogenic mechanisms underlying neurological disorders that impact learning and memory by taking a multidisciplinary approach to investigate the molecular, cellular, and circuit basis of neurodegenerative disorders.

Morgan Sheng

Core Institute Member, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard
As Co-Director of the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at the Broad Institute, Sheng will help to shape the center’s scientific vision and direction, and oversee the center’s efforts to develop therapeutics for schizophrenia and other serious mental illnesses.

Myriam Heiman

Latham Career Development Chair
Many neurodegenerative diseases begin with the loss of select groups of cells. Understanding select group vulnerability may help identify root causes and novel therapeutic targets. Heiman’s lab studies selective vulnerability and pathophysiology in Huntington’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

MIT biologists discover an unusual hallmark of aging in neurons

November 27, 2018
Research findings
Snippets of RNA that accumulate in brain cells could interfere with normal function

Making waves for health

March 1, 2018
News feature
Innovative insights, methods raise clnical potential of instilling brain waves

Schizophrenia

A developmental disorder with typical onset in young adulthood, schizophrenia affects cognition and behavior, sometimes affecting a person’s understanding of reality. Research in the Picower Institute spans synapses and systems to help better understand the condition and how treatments might be improved.

Earl K. Miller

Picower Professor of Neuroscience
Miller’s lab studies the neural mechanisms of attention, learning, and memory needed for voluntary, goal-directed behavior. The lab explores prefrontal function by employing a variety of techniques including multiple-electrode neurophysiology, psychophysics, pharmacological manipulations, and computational techniques.

Mark Bear

Picower Professor of Neuroscience
Bear’s lab studies how experience and deprivation modify synaptic connections in the brain. Experience-dependent synaptic plasticity is the physical substrate of memory and sculpts connections during postnatal development to determine the capabilities and limitations of brain functions.

Susumu Tonegawa

Picower Professor of Biology and Neuroscience
With cutting-edge neuroscience techniques, the Tonegawa lab unravels the molecular, cellular, and neural circuit mechanisms that underlie learning and memory. Studies bridge basic science and disease models to causally dissect how memory works and breaks down.

Fundamental questions find advanced answers, approaches at Fall Symposium

October 18, 2019
Events
Experts from around the world discuss "Neural Mechanisms of Memory and Cognition"

Dopamine primes the brain for enhanced vigilance

November 7, 2018
Research findings
Neuroscientists discover a circuit that helps redirect attention to focus on potential threats

As brain extracts meaning from vision, study tracks progression of processing

July 10, 2018
Research Findings
Six brain regions participate in a more blended way than has been appreciated

Protein pair quickly makes memories of new places

June 4, 2018
Research Findings
Encountering novel contexts cues the brain to churn out neurogranin

Symposium speaks to the many powers of brain rhythms

April 9, 2018
Events
11 experts convened at Picower April 4

With new grant, MIT neuroscientists will give 'invisible' cells a new look

February 8, 2018
New research
Astrocytes may 'partner' with neurons to process information

Rhythmic interactions between cortical layers control what we hold in mind

January 15, 2018
Research findings
A new study by MIT neuroscientists suggests a model for how we gain volitional control of working memory

Cellular reprograming implicated in model of Alzheimer's disease

October 17, 2017
Research Findings
Neuroscientists identify genetic changes in microglia in a mouse model of neurodegeneration and Alzheimer's disease.

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