There is a burgeoning interest in neuroscience in popular culture. Researchers play an integral part in culture but the public knows very little about how science is done, who actually does it or exactly why it’s important. One consequence of opaque scientific work is the inability to see which individuals are conducting their research, their personal stories, and their motivations to help reveal the complexity of the nature we are imbued by.
These images were captured with a compact large format camera using experimental New55 PN instant film. The opaqueness of the positive (left) represents the raw data collected by scientists on their quest to understand nature. The inverted negative (right) represents how scientists reveal nature through filtering data, beautifying imagery, and at times removing unwanted, but captured information.
All scientists and equipment are part of the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The front façade of the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Course 9 refers to the name of the major (i.e., neuroscience). The late Charles Correa was the lead designer for the building.
A reading room flooded with natural light for chance encounters to exchange ideas and for scientist to have a drink.
Scientists mingle in the atrium after lectures from visiting professors. However, the venue is clear of people as scientists conduct their research.
To and Through
A glass roof covers the atrium in one of the world’s largest neuroscience research facilities, the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences.
The Lions Den
Invited speakers present their most recent findings and interesting work in this lecture hall.
Stephen Allsop received his PhD at MIT and will continue his medical training at Harvard Medical School. Allsop was born in Brooklyn, NY, and grew up in Trinidad and Tobago before moving to Cambridge to study the brain circuitry of social cognition. His work focuses on how animals learn by observing other animals learning a task. Allsop’s findings suggests that there are encoded circuits in the brain to learn by observing others, which may play a fundamental role in understanding the feelings of others. In addition to pursuing a medical degree and PhD Allsop is an accomplished jazz musician.
Caitlin Vander Weele comes from a small German tourist town, Frankenmuth, Michigan where it is Christmas year around. She is currently a PhD candidate and interested in what projection-defined circuits in the prefrontal cortex encode information about positive and negative events. Her research has led to finding brain regions that play a crucial role in generating feelings of isolation. Vander Weele recently launched a magazine that blends both science and art called Inerstellate.
Nancy Padilla was born and raised in Puerto Rico and attended music school where she specialized in piano and the cello. She became interested in how the brain allows one to experience music emotionally and in recalling memories. Ultimately, Padilla obtained her PhD in neuroscience from Columbia University and is now a postdoctoral associate studying the role of the hormone estrogen on the brain circuitry that underlies anxiety behaviors. Padilla is interested in how innate behaviors are encoded in the brain.
Rodrigo Garcia was born in Boaco Nicaragua, but moved to the United States due to the civil and political unrest that resulted from the Iran-contra affair. He is now a postdoctoral associate and studies astrocytes -- one of a type of non-neuronal cells called glia that make up about half all cells in the human brain. Garcia is investigating astrocytes contribute to information processing in the visual cortex.
Autumn Arons grew up in Montgomery, New York and attended Union College. She currently studies the mechanisms involved in eating disorders. She is motivated in how living a healthy lifestyle can assist in disease prevention. Arons finds it fascinating how people's bodies can react so differently to diet and exercise and how the central nervous system plays a part in that.
Rachel Cuozzo is a recent MIT alumna from the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences. Cuozzo, Born in New York, grew up South Florida. She currently works in Professor Matthew WIlson's lab studying the parabrachial nucleus (PBN) of the brain stem. The PBN is a brain structure crucial for maintaining consciousness. She became interested in neuroscience in high-school after being enamored by anatomy and beauty of the human body.
Francisco Flores grew up Combarbalá, Chile. Flores studies the effects of commonly used anesthetic drugs on the thalamocortical system during loss and recovery of consciousness. Francisco became interested in chemistry, in part, from his time learning how to develop photographs with his father who is an accomplished photographer.
Anna Beyeler is from the town of Tourliac, France. After studying the spinal cord at the University of Bordeaux, where she received her PhD, she switched her focus to studying the neural circuitry of the hippocampus. Anna is now researching the amygdala -- a brain region that’s important for infusing positive or negative emotions into experiences -- known as valence. Her work can help in understanding mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. She will soon lead her own lab in Boudreaux.
Shruti Muralidhar is from India. She finished her PhD at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland. From Switzerland she began postdoctoral research at the University of Utah. Muralidharis now starting her postdoctoral position in the nobel prize winning lab of Susumu Tonegawa at MIT.
Tomás Ryan is from a small market town called Dungarvan in Country Waterford, Ireland. He completed his undergraduate degree at Trinity College Dublin and moved to the University of Cambridge in the UK for his PhD before coming to MIT to study memory and amnesia. Ryan’s findings show that amnesia is not about losing memories, but rather about the inability to access seemingly lost memories.
Stereotaxic Setup in Faraday Cage
The microscope shown here is used to perform surgeries that allow neuroscientists to use laser light to turn on and off subset of brain networks. The aforementioned technique is called optogenetics
A microscope is used to manually construct a microdrive hyper-array, which contains dozens of electrodes that record from potentially hundreds of neurons. This tool is used to record the rhythms of the brain and individual firing patterns of neurons to record the dreams of rodents to better understand how the brain remembers as an animal learns a maze.
This is a sophisticated physiology rig designed to turn on or off very specific subcircuits in the brain -- neuroscientists can identify the neural circuitry that underlies how the brain bridges two independent events in time, that is, associative learning
A microscope to study the function of astrocytes, one of a type of non-neuronal cells called glia that make up about half all cells in the human brain. This machine is used to investigate how astrocytes contribute to information processing in the visual cortex.
A classic lab bench, messy from experimentation, filled to the brim with solutions, salts, and sometimes neurotoxins.