Our goal, broadly-defined, is to understand how the brain routes information from different sources to execute behavior. We are motivated by the remarkable ability of human beings to extract meaningful information and filter out irrelevant distractions from a noisy world, and appreciate the importance of these brain mechanisms when they malfunction in disorders such as schizophrenia and autism. By directly interrogating brain circuits involved in these functions, we aim to understand their basic operations, and correct their misbehavior in these devastating human conditions.
Interactions between the thalamus and cortex are essential for sensation, action and cognition. We are working towards understanding the synaptic and microcircuit mechanisms underlying thalamo-cortical interactions across behavioral states. Our current focus is on interrogating the thalamic reticular nucleus (TRN), a gate for information flow between thalamus and cortex. To this end, we use a combination of molecular genetics, optical sensors and actuators, and behavioral electrophysiology in freely behaving rodents (both circuit- and disease- models).
brain’s switchboardScientists studied how just a few nerve cell in the mouse brain may control the switch between internal thoughts and external distractions. Using optogenetics, a technique that uses light-sensitive molecules to control nerve cell firing, the scientists were able to switch on and off drowsiness in mice.
Halassa Lab Researcher Among 126 “Outstanding Young Scholars”
Michael M. Halassa, MD, PhD, assistant professor, Departments of Psychiatry and Neuroscience and Physiology at NYU Langone Medical Center’s Neuroscience Institute, has been selected as a winner of the 2015 Sloan Research Fellowship.
The two-year fellowship is awarded to 126 researchers whose “achievements place them among the next generation of scientific leaders in the U.S. and Canada.” The award has been presented annually since 1955 by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
Past recipients of Sloan Research Fellowships have gone on to win 39 Nobel prizes, 16 Fields Medals (mathematics) and 13 John Bates Clark Medals (economics), according to the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
Two NYU Faculty Win Sloan Foundation Research Fellowships
Two New York University faculty have been awarded fellowships from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation: Michael Halassa, an assistant professor of psychiatry, neuroscience, and physiology at NYU Langone Neuroscience Institute, and Jennifer Jacquet, an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Studies.
Past Sloan Research Fellows have gone on to notable careers and include physicist Richard Feynman and game theorist John Nash. Since the beginning of the program in 1955, 43 fellows have received a Nobel Prize in their respective field, 16 have won the Fields Medal in mathematics, and 65 have received the National Medal of Science.
Life In The Lab
We strive to create a happy and balanced, yet scientifically rigorous life in the lab.