Our Team

The Halassa Lab studies how the brain filters information during sleep and attention.

Principal Investigator

Michael Halassa

Michael Halassa

Principal Investigator

Michael Halassa is a neuroscientist 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. As a practicing psychiatrist he aims to develop novel approaches to diagnosing and treating these illnesses guided by insights both from the lab and clinic. View Dr. Halassa’s CV Here.

Postdoctoral Fellows

Ralf Wimmer

Ralf Wimmer

Postdoctoral Fellow, SNSF fellow

Ralf obtained his Ph.D. with Dr. Anita Luthi at the University of Lausanne, where he performed patch-clamp recordings in acute slices and EEG/EMG recordings in freely moving mice. During his graduate work, he established thalamic mechanisms of spindle generation as potential sources for sensory gating during sleep. Email Ralf Here.


Wells, M.F.*, Wimmer, R.D.*, Schmitt, L.I., Feng, G., Halassa, M.M., Thalamic reticular impairment underlies attention deficit in Ptchd1Y/- mice.  Nature (2016) doi: 10.1038/nature17427.

Chen, Z., Wimmer, R.D., Wilson, M.A., Halassa, M.M., Thalamic circuit mechanisms link sensory processing in sleep and attention. Front. Neural Circuits, 9:83 (2015).

Wimmer, R.D.*, Schmitt, L.I.*, Davidson, T.J., Nakajima, M., Deisseroth, K., Halassa, M.M., Thalamic control of sensory selection in divided attention. Nature, 526: 705–709 (2015), DOI: 10.1038/nature15398.

Schmitt, L.I., Wimmer, R.D., Astrocytic Regulation of Sleep Processes. Curr Sleep Medicine Rep (2015) 1:9–19, doi: 10.1007/s40675-014-0005-5

Halassa MM, Chen Z, Wimmer RD, Brunetti PM, Zhao S, Zikopoulos B, Wang F, Brown EN, Wilson MA. (2014) “State-dependent architecture of thalamic reticular subnetworks.” Cell, 158(4):808-21.

Brunetti PM*, Wimmer RD*, Liang L, Siegle JH, Voigts J, Wilson M, Halassa MM. (2014) “Design and fabrication of ultralight weight, adjustable multi-electrode probes for electrophysiological recordings in mice.” J Vis Exp. (91):e516

Astori S, Wimmer RD, Lüthi A. (2013) “Manipulating sleep spindles – Expanding views on sleep, memory and disease.” Trends Neurosci, 36(12):738-48

Wimmer RD, Astori S, Bond C, Rovó Z, Chatton J-Y, Adelman JP, Franken P, Lüthi A. (2012) “Sustaining sleep spindles through enhanced SK2 channel activity consolidates sleep and elevates arousal threshold.” J Neurosci, 32(40):13917-28.

Astori S, Wimmer RD, Prosser HM, Corti C, Corsi M, Liaudet N, Volterra A, Franken P, Adelman JP, Lüthi A. (2011) “The CaV3.3 calcium channel is the major sleep spindle pacemaker in thalamus.” Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 108(33):13823-8.

Reyes-Castro LA, Rodriguez JS, Rodríguez-González GL, Wimmer RD, McDonald TJ, Larrea F, Nathanielsz PW, Zambrano E. “Pre- and/or postnatal protein restriction in rats impairs learning and motivation in male offspring.” (2011) Int J Dev Neurosci. 29(2):177-82.

Cerbulo-Vazquez A, Zavala M, Perez-Palacios GA, Jenkins SL, Giavedoni LD, Hodara VL, Romero R, Wimmer RD, Irles C, Nathanielsz PW. (2010) “Baboon fetal arterial endothelial cells are more responsive to challenge by tumor necrosis factor α (TNF-α) than baboon fetal umbilical vein endothelial cells.” Atherosclerosis. 212(2):701-3.

* Authors contributed equally

Ian Schmitt

Ian Schmitt

Postdoctoral Fellow, NARSAD Young Investigator

Ian completed his PhD in the laboratory of Professor Philip G. Haydon where he performed field recordings and amperometric biosensor based measurements in acute slices. During his graduate studies, Ian employed these techniques to establish that astrocytic glia release adenosine in response to wakefulness and that regulation of synaptic transmission by this molecule may affect memory function by modulating synaptic transmission and plasticity within the hippocampus.


Schmitt, LI. Sims, RE., Dale, N., Haydon, PG. (2012). Wakefulness Affects Synaptic and Network Activity by Increasing Extracellular Astrocyte-Derived Adenosine. Journal of Neuroscience, 32(13), 4417-4425. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5689-11.2012. PMID:   22457491

Hines, DJ. Schmitt, LI., Hines R.M. Moss, SJ. Haydon, PG. (2013). Antidepressant Effects of Sleep Deprivation Require Astrocyte-Dependent Adenosine Mediated Signaling.  Translational Psychiatry. 3:e212. doi: 10.1038/tp.2012.136. PMID:   23321809

Clasadonte, J*. McIver, SR*. Schmitt, LI*. (2013) Chronic Sleep Restriction Disrupts Sleep Homeostasis and Behavioral Sensitivity to Alcohol by Reducing the Extracellular Accumulation of Adenosine. Journal of Neuroscience, 34(5): 1879-1891. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2870-12.2014. PMID: 24478367

Min D. Tang-Schomer, James White, Lee W. Tien, L. Ian Schmitt, Thomas Valentin, Daniel Graziano, Amy Hopkins, Fiorenzo G. Omenetto, Philip G. Haydon, and David L. Kaplan. (In Press) Bioengineered functional brain-like cortical tissue. PNAS.

 Miho Nakajima

Miho Nakajima

Postdoctoral Fellow, JSPS Fellow

Miho completed her PhD in the laboratory of Professor Nathaniel Heintz at the Rockefeller University, where she performed gene/functional profiling of specific cortical interneuron cell types using BAC transgenesis method. During her graduate studies, Miho employed these techniques and discovered a new class of cortical interneuron subtype which has oxytocin/brain state dependent function during female socio-sexual behavior. Contact Miho Here.


Nakajima M, Gorlich A, and Heintz N (2014) “Oxytocin Modulates Female Sociosexual Behavior through a specific Class of Prefrontal Cortical Interneurons”, Cell, 159, (2): 295-305

Dougherty JD, Schmidt EF, Nakajima M, and Heintz N (2010) “Analytical approaches to RNA profiling data for the identification of genes enriched in specific cells.” Nucleic Acids Research, 38(13):4218-30

Nakatani H, Serizawa S, Nakajima M, Imai T, and Sakano H (2003) “Developmental elimination of ectopic projection sites for the transgenic OR gene that has lost zone specificity in the olfactory epithelium.”European Journal of Neuroscience, 18(9):2425-32

Miyoshi G., Young A., Petros T., Karayannis T., McKenzie Chang M., Lavado A., Iwano T., Nakajima M., Taniguchi H., Huang ZJ., Heintz N., Oliver G., Matsuzaki F., Machold RP., Fishell G., Prox1 regulates the subtype-specific development of caudal ganglionic eminence-derived GABAergic cortical interneurons. J Neurosci., 35(37):12869-89 (2015) DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1164-15.2015

Wimmer, R.D.*, Schmitt, L.I.*, Davidson, T.J., Nakajima, M., Deisseroth, K., Halassa, M.M., Thalamic control of sensory selection in divided attention. Nature, 526: 705–709 (2015), DOI: 10.1038/nature15398.

Stefan Oline

Stefan Oline

Postdoctoral Fellow

Stefan completed his Ph.D. with Professor R. Michael Burger at Lehigh University, where he used patch clamp recordings to understand how auditory neurons represent temporal information for sound localization. In the process, he found that these neurons use different computational strategies depending on stimulus frequency. Here, Stefan is applying this background to study sensory integration in higher-level circuits.

Liang L, Oline SN, Kirk J. C., Schmitt LI, Komorowski RW, Remondes M and Halassa MM (2017) Scalable, Lightweight, Integrated and Quick-to-Assemble (SLIQ) Hyperdrives for Functional Circuit Dissection. Front. Neural Circuits 11:8. doi: 10.3389/fncir.2017.00008

Oline SN & Burger RM (2014). Short-term synaptic depression is topographically distributed in the cochlear nucleus of the chicken. Journal of Neuroscience, 34(4), 1314–1324. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3073-13.2014

Oline SN, Ashida G, & Burger RM (2016). Tonotopic Optimization for Temporal Processing in the Cochlear Nucleus. The Journal of Neuroscience : the Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 36(32), 8500–8515. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4449-15.2016

Sima Mofakham

Sima Mofakham

Postdoctoral Fellow

Sima completed her Ph.D. with Professor Michal Zochowski at University of Michigan, where she developed and employed computational and statistical tools to detect emerging patterns and correlations in network dynamics in both simplified simulated neural networks and experimentally recorded data. She studied the structural foundation of the different brain’s dynamical modes of activities based on the interplay between cellular properties and network coupling characteristics.
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More specifically, she identified conditions that promote synchrony in mixed networks of Type I and Type II neurons under varying network connectivity distributions. The obtained results indicate that not only overall connectivity topology in the networks matters but also statistical distributions of cell connectivity properties. She took a step further and developed a set of measures to quantify and predict spontaneous network transitions from asynchronous dynamics to the synchronous dynamics. These spontaneous transitions into the synchronous activity of the network may correspond to changes of neural activity at the onset of epileptic seizures. These developed measures are capable of capturing early spatial features of network reorganization upon impending transition into bursting dynamics and could be potentially applied online to predict transitions from normal to ictal brain states in epilepsy patients. In addition to the above-mentioned modeling projects, she analyzed network dynamics associated with memory consolidation in vivo recordings of mice subjected to Contextual Fear Conditioning (CFC). Where she established that stability of the formed functional representations depends critically on theta band oscillations and correlates with the subsequent memory performance of the animals.

Mofakham, S, Zochowski, M. Measuring Predictability of Autonomous Network Transitions into Bursting Dynamics. PLOS ONE, 2015 , 10(4).

Mofakham, S, Fink, CG, Booth, V, Zochowski, M. Interplay between excitability type and neuronal connectivity in determining neuronal network synchronization (Under Review).

Ognjanovski N, Schaeffer S, Mofakham S, Maruyama D, Zochowski M, Aton SJ. Hippocampal memory consolidation and state-dependent network oscillations are coordinated by parvalbumin-expressing interneuron networks. (Under Review)

Kinnunen, P, McNaughton, B, Albertson, T, Sinn, I, Mofakham, S, Newton, D, Hunt, A and R. Kopelman. Self-assembled AMBR biosensors for bacterial drug resistance, Small Nano Micro, 2012.

Mofakham, S; Mazaheri, M; Akhavan, M. Two-dimensional mechanism of electrical conductivity in Gd1−xCexBa2Cu3O7−δ. J. Phys. Condens. Matter. 2008, 20 345221.

Mazaheri, M; Mofakham, S; Akhavan, M. The conduction mechanism in Gd1−x−zCexCazBa2Cu3O7−δ. Supercond. Sci. Technol. 2008 21 095006.

Nóra Hádinger

Nóra Hádinger

Postdoctoral Fellow

After obtaining her PhD in the field of developmental neuroscience with Professor Emilia Madarsz in Hungary, Nora started to investigate corticothalamic connections in Professor Acsady’s lab at IEM-HAS, Budapest. During her work she descibed how these communication channels can be specific according to the cortical and thalamic regions they serve to connect. Now her aim is to investigate how these specific connections could contribute to interactions between thalamus and frontal cortex.
Guang Chen

Guang Chen

Postdoctoral Fellow

Guang completed his Ph.D. with Professor Xiaohui Zhang at Institute of Neuroscience, Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, where he combined multi-electrode recording and optogenetic manipulation to study the developmental emergence of oscillatory activity during the critical period and the underlying inhibitory circuitry mechanisms in head-fixed awake mice. Here, he wants to study how neural circuits and activity patterns support cognitive functions in behaving animals.



Chen G, Zhao XC, Zhang Y, Li X, Ye Q, Rasch MJ, Zhang X-H. Distinct inhibitory cell circuits orchestrate cortical beta and gamma band oscillations (in revision).

Chen G, Rasch MJ, Wang R, Zhang X-H. Experience-dependent emergence of
beta and gamma band oscillations in the primary visual cortex during the critical
period. Sci Rep 2015; 5:17847.

Chen X-J, Rasch MJ, Chen G, Ye C-Q, Wu S, Zhang X-H. Binocular input
coincidence mediates critical period plasticity in the mouse primary visual cortex.
J Neurosci 2014; 34:2940–55.


Olivier Gschwend

Olivier Gschwend

Postdoctoral Fellow

Olivier completed his PhD with Prof. Alan Carleton at the University of Geneva, where he used head-fixed extracellular recordings in awake mice, opto/pharmacogenetics and head-fixed behavior to describe how temporal coordination of excitatory neurons in the olfactory bulb is shaped by the inhibitory network and orchestrates olfactory perception. Olivier is now interested in understanding how cortico-thalamic interactions support abstract rule representation in different contexts.


Dense encoding of natural odorants by ensembles of sparsely activated neurons in the olfactory bulb.

Gschwend O, Beroud J, Vincis R, Rodriguez I, Carleton A.

Sci Rep. 2016 Nov 8;6:36514. doi: 10.1038/srep36514.

Disruption of Kcc2-dependent inhibition of olfactory bulb output neurons suggests its importance in odour discrimination.

Gödde K, Gschwend O, Puchkov D, Pfeffer CK, Carleton A, Jentsch TJ.

Nat Commun. 2016 Jul 8;7:12043. doi: 10.1038/ncomms12043.

Neuronal pattern separation in the olfactory bulb improves odor discrimination learning.

Gschwend O*, Abraham NM*, Lagier S, Begnaud F, Rodriguez I, Carleton A.

Nat Neurosci. 2015 Oct;18(10):1474-82. doi: 10.1038/nn.4089. Epub 2015 Aug 24.

A population of glomerular glutamatergic neurons controls sensory information transfer in the mouse olfactory bulb.

Tatti R, Bhaukaurally K, Gschwend O, Seal RP, Edwards RH, Rodriguez I, Carleton A.

Nat Commun. 2014 May 7;5:3791. doi: 10.1038/ncomms4791.

Dense representation of natural odorants in the mouse olfactory bulb.

Vincis R, Gschwend O, Bhaukaurally K, Beroud J, Carleton A.

Nat Neurosci. 2012 Mar 11;15(4):537-9. doi: 10.1038/nn.3057.

Encoding odorant identity by spiking packets of rate-invariant neurons in awake mice.

Gschwend O, Beroud J, Carleton A.

PLoS One. 2012;7(1):e30155. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0030155. Epub 2012 Jan 17.


Giulio Spagnol

Giulio Spagnol

Visiting Student

Giulio joined Halassa Lab to complete his master thesis in Cognitive Neuroscience started at Maastricht University. During his master studies he focused on ultra-high filed​ MRI imaging (7T) of higher order cognition. He is interested in brain circuitry regulating attention and perception and his long-term goal is to develop an experimental approach to test a reductionist account of consciousness.

Research Assistants

Michael Happ

Michael Happ

Research Assistant

Michael graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2015 with a degree in Mathematics and Physics. As an undergraduate, he was exposed to research in molecular biophysics while developing a mechanistic model for mitochondrial complex I of the electron transport chain. Fascinated by the synergies among mathematics, chemisty, biology and physics, he has turned to applying computer science and statistics to the study of the brain.



Danny Liang
Undergraduate summer intern: 2014, 2015
Next position: Medical student University of Toronto

Anmolpreet Kandola
High school summer intern: 2015
Next position: Undergraduate student at Columbia University

Jaison Jain
High school summer intern: 2015
Next position: Undergraduate student at Brown University

Gabriel Levine
Undergraduate summer intern: 2015
Next position: Undergraduate student at University of Chicago

Jie-Yoon Yang
Research Assistant: 2014-2015
Next position: graduate student at Caltech

Philip Brunetti
Research assistant: 2012-2014
Next position: Medical student at Louisiana State University

Justin Kirk
Research Assistant: 2016, 2017
Next position: Skillmill NYC