Understanding the brain remains one of the great intellectual challenges for science, and it requires the integration of approaches from many disciplines. Caltech Neuroscience research spans a wide range of subjects: the molecular function of receptors; signaling organelles like the synapse; the structure and function of single neurons; the assembly and function of circuits of nerve cells; and the collective function of brain systems in controlling behavior, perception, memory, cognition, and emotion. Several laboratories are applying basic science findings to animal models of brain disorders, and these translational approaches are opening up novel therapeutic avenues. Finally, Caltech's traditional strength in engineering stimulates the development of new tools for brain science: from optical techniques to new twists of genetic engineering, to novel multi-electrode devices, to computational models and theories. The Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute for Neuroscience provides support for research in a broad variety of areas and serves as a home for the Caltech neuroscience community.
Circuit and Systems Neuroscience
Function of neural circuits; neural coding of information; visual processing; object recognition; perception of space and motion in primates; neural mechanisms of emotional behavior; mechanisms of sleep; learning and memory; psychophysics of human perception, cognition, and action; social behavior in humans; complexity and control in brain architecture; evolution of brain and behavior in primates.
Cognitive Neuroscience typically focuses on perception, sensory-motor coordination, cognition, memory, sensory-motor coordination, emotion and decision making , mostly in the human (but the monkey and some other species as well). We investigate these functions in relation to their neural correlates. Methodologically, it based on brain imaging and recording (e.g., fMRI, intracranial recordings, EEG, etc.), brain stimulation (e.g., TMS, tDCS, ultrasound), and combinations of them (brain-machine interface, neural feedback). Some examples of research topics in Cognitive Neuroscience at Caltech include; multisensory integration, neurological disorders, brain-machine interface, reward and aversive related learning, decision making, self-control and human computational ethology.
Research in this area is supported by the Caltech Center for Brain Imaging (CBIC).
Computational Neuroscience encompasses diverse goals: using models and theories to understand the brain as a biological system; understanding the brain as a computing system; engineering better computers and algorithms using insights from biological brains. Research at Caltech pursues all three flavors, and benefits greatly from synergies with machine learning and robotics in the Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
Human neuroscience in BBE spans from studies of drugs and molecules to imaging of entire human brains in the Caltech Brain Imaging Center (link). Approaches fuse basic research and engineering, for instance in work using brain-machine interfaces that allow paralyzed patients to control robotic limbs and computers. Several core domains of perception, cognition and emotion are studied, including memory, emotion, decision-making. Several projects directly include clinical populations, such as people with autism or depression, studies that are often closely integrated with work in animal models.
Molecular mechanisms of nervous-system development; neural crest development; axon guidance and synaptogenesis; ion channels, transporters, and receptors; structure and function of synapses; genetic tools for activating, silencing, and tracing neural circuits; molecular genetics of behavior.
Research in this area is supported by the Center for Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience.
Neuroengineering involves the development of engineering techniques to understand, interact with, and influence neural function. Caltech is a leader in the development of brain-machine interfaces, electrophysiology, and methods for understanding and developing therapies for neurological diseases. Active areas of research include genetic tools for activating, silencing, and tracing neural circuits; optogenetic applications; multi-electrode devices; wireless recording; large-scale data analysis; computational modeling.
Additional resources for research in this area are available through the T&C Chen Brain-Machine Interface Center in the Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute for Neuroscience and the Caltech Neurotechnology Laboratory, part of the Beckman Institute.