How Brain Circuits Function in Health and Disease: Understanding Brain-wide Current Flow

Tuesday, February 9, 2021, 2:00 pm EST
How Brain Circuits Function in Health and Disease: Understanding Brain-wide Current Flow

Dr. Rajan and her lab design neural network models based on experimental data, and reverse-engineer them to figure out how brain circuits function in health and disease. They have been developing a powerful new framework for tracing neural paths across multiple brain regions. They call this framework CURrent-Based Decomposition (CURBD). It enables the team to compute excitatory and inhibitory input currents from other neurons that drive a given neuron. This enables the team to learn about the way entire populations of neurons behave across multiple interacting brain regions. They have applied this method to studying behavior--for example in a model called learned helplessness often used to study depression and anxiety in animals. They have thus uncovered some of the underlying biology driving adaptive and maladaptive behaviors. With this powerful framework Dr. Rajan's team probes for mechanisms at work across brain regions that support both healthy and disease states, as well as identify key divergences.

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Presented by 
Kanaka Rajan, Ph.D.
Kanaka Rajan, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Department of Neuroscience & Friedman Brain Institute

Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

2014 Young Investigator Grant

Kanaka Rajan, Ph.D. is a Computational Neuroscientist and Assistant Professor at the Friedman Brain Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. Her research seeks to understand how important cognitive functions — such as learning, remembering, and deciding — emerge from the cooperative activity of multi-scale neural processes. Using data from neuroscience experiments, Kanaka applies computational frameworks derived from machine learning and statistical physics to uncover integrative theories about the brain that bridge neurobiology and artificial intelligence.

Before joining the faculty at Mount Sinai, Kanaka completed her postdoctoral work at Princeton University, where she made significant contributions to the modeling of important neural processes, including feature selectivity with Dr William Bialek and neural network models inspired by biology with Dr David Tank. She received her Ph.D. at Columbia University with Dr. Larry Abbott.

Moderated by 
Jeffrey Borenstein, M.D.
Brain & Behavior Research Foundation

President and CEO

Jeffrey Borenstein, M.D., serves as the President & CEO of the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, the largest private funder of mental health research grants. Dr. Borenstein developed the Emmy Award-nominated public television program “Healthy Minds,” and serves as host of the series. The program, which is broadcast nationwide, focuses on topics in psychiatry in order to educate the public, reduce stigma and offer a message of hope. Dr. Borenstein also serves as Editor-in-Chief of Psychiatric News, the newspaper of the American Psychiatric Association and as an Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.