- Integrating Epistemic Action (Active Vision) and Pragmatic Action (Reaching): A Neural Architecture for Camera-Arm Robots. 2008-05-15
Ognibene, D.; Balkenius, C. & Baldassarre, G.. 2008. Integrating Epistemic Action (Active Vision) and Pragmatic Action (Reaching): A Neural Architecture for Camera-Arm Robots. Minoru Asada and Jun Tani and John Hallam and Jean-Arcady Meyer (ed.). The tenth International Conference on the SIMULATION OF ADAPTIVE BEHAVIOR (SAB'08). Osaka, Japan. Springer. july.
- Using Particle Filters to Anticipate the Location of Reappearance of a Temporarily Hidden Target 2007-06-01
- Belfer gift creates consortium targeting neurodegenerative diseases 2012-10-29
- The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT is one of three entities that will share a $25 million gift from the Robert A. and Renee E. Belfer Family Foundation to create the Neurodegeneration Consortium (NDC), a transformative multi-institutional initiative that will advance the study and treatment of Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.
Picower will join in the NDC with the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and Baylor College of Medicine. The gift is contingent, among other conditions, on the consortium partners securing matching philanthropy in the amount of $25 million by Jan. 1, 2016, of which $6.5 million has already been raised.
The lead MIT investigator on the effort, Li-Huei Tsai, the Picower Professor of Neuroscience at MIT and director of the Picower Institute, hopes that by combining strengths, the three institutions involved will make dynamic progress in the fight against Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.
“The Neurodegeneration Consortium investigates very fundamental mechanisms of neuronal death versus cognitive impairments, as well as nongenetic factors that can cause genes to express themselves differently over time,” Tsai said. “We think we may be close to drug development for novel targets, but we also want to combine our strengths to further understand the mechanism of the disease. The idea is to have synergistic efforts and promote new collaborations. This is an exciting opportunity provided by the Belfer family to combat the pandemic of Alzheimer’s disease.”
Funding from the Belfer Family Foundation will support Tsai’s ongoing research in neurobiology, learning and memory, and neurodegeneration, such as that caused by Alzheimer’s disease. Her recent work has focused on the chromatin-modifying enzymes and their roles in neuroprotection and in Alzheimer’s. Tsai’s expertise covers the genetics of mouse models of neurodegeneration, memory and neurodevelopment, as well as behavioral testing for memory and cognitive decline.
At MIT and elsewhere, recent research in cancer, neurodegeneration and other age-associated diseases has revealed common molecular themes; for instance, age-dependent genetic and epigenetic events contribute to the increased incidence of cancer and Alzheimer’s later in life. The NDC is a collaborative effort in which highly specialized basic science researchers at all three institutions will seek to discover and identify key molecular targets; a drug development team at MD Anderson’s Institute for Applied Cancer Science will translate these discoveries into viable clinical candidates.
“The Neurodegeneration Consortium will work to better understand the molecular and genetic basis of neurodegenerative diseases, particularly Alzheimer’s disease,” said Robert A. Belfer, president of the Belfer Family Foundation. “The aim is to translate research findings into effective targeted drugs and diagnostics for patients while addressing quality-of-life issues and the financial challenges of treating and living with Alzheimer’s and other aging diseases.”
“Neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s are, like cancer, diseases of aging,” Belfer added. “An aging population challenges us with runaway medical costs. To enhance the quality of life in later years, as well as reduce costs, we need a national effort. Recent advances in medical technology pave the way for this progress. My hope is that this project, which brings together three of the world’s leading medical research centers, will be a meaningful and much-needed step in advancing this urgent national problem.”
In addition to Tsai, the NDC team of investigators includes Lynda Chin, Ronald DePinho, Giulio Draetta, Ming-Kuei Jang, and Philip Jones of MD Anderson; Juan Botas, Joanna Jankowsky, and Hui Zheng of Baylor College of Medicine; and Hugo Bellen and Huda Zoghbi of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute at Texas Children’s Hospital, Baylor College of Medicine.
“This truly collaborative enterprise brings together some of the field’s most creative scientific minds and the formidable capabilities of three major academic institutions,” said DePinho, who is president of MD Anderson. “It’s a unique group of investigators focused on understanding one of the greatest challenges facing humanity in this century. The Alzheimer’s field has largely focused on one major theory, the so-called amyloid hypothesis (i.e., the accumulation of amyloid beta-peptide in the brain as a primary influence in the neurodegeneration associated with Alzheimer’s), but recent work points to a number of other factors that conspire to impair brain health. This group will ‘hit the reset button,’ employing innovative thinking and advanced technologies. The knowledge of cancer, for example, has advanced rapidly because we’ve taken advantage of diverse disease model systems, powerful genomic and computational platforms and genetics. It will be a privilege to work with this gifted group.”
The Belfer Family Foundation’s support represents a turning point in the study of neurodegenerative disease, Zoghbi said.
“This gift creates an unprecedented collaboration among scientists and physicians at MD Anderson, Baylor and MIT,” Zoghbi said. “It’s only through such collaborative effort, bringing together unique and complementary expertise, that we stand to make a difference in neurodegenerative disease. I’m so grateful to the Belfer family for enabling us to form this wonderful consortium.”
- Four MIT researchers attend White House announcement of brain initiative 2013-04-02
- Four MIT neuroscientists were among those invited to the White House on Tuesday, April 2, when President Barack Obama announced a new initiative to understand the human brain.
Professors Ed Boyden, Emery Brown, Robert Desimone and Sebastian Seung were among a group of leading researchers who joined Obama for the announcement, along with Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, and representatives of federal and private funders of neuroscience research.
In unveiling the BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) Initiative, Obama highlighted brain research as one of his administration’s “grand challenges” — ambitious yet achievable goals that demand new innovations and breakthroughs in science and technology.
A key goal of the BRAIN Initiative will be to accelerate the development of new technologies to visualize brain activity and to understand how this activity is linked to behavior and to brain disorders.
“There is this enormous mystery waiting to be unlocked,” Obama said, “and the BRAIN Initiative will change that by giving scientists the tools they need to get a dynamic picture of the brain in action and better understand how we think and how we learn and how we remember. And that knowledge could be — will be — transformative.”
To jump-start the initiative, the NIH, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and the National Science Foundation will invest some $100 million in research support beginning in the next fiscal year. Planning will be overseen by a working group co-chaired by Cornelia Bargmann PhD ’87, now at Rockefeller University, and William Newsome of Stanford University. Brown, an MIT professor of computational neuroscience and of health sciences and technology, will serve as a member of the working group.
Boyden, the Benesse Career Development Associate Professor of Research in Engineering, has pioneered the development of new technologies for studying brain activity. Desimone, the Doris and Don Berkey Professor of Neuroscience, is director of MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research, which conducts research in many areas relevant to the new initiative. Seung, a professor of computational neuroscience and physics, is a leader in the field of “connectomics,” the effort to describe the wiring diagram of the brain.
- Brain waves encode rules for behavior 2012-11-21
- One of the biggest puzzles in neuroscience is how our brains encode thoughts, such as perceptions and memories, at the cellular level. Some evidence suggests that ensembles of neurons represent each unique piece of information, but no one knows just what these ensembles look like, or how they form.
A new study from researchers at MIT and Boston University (BU) sheds light on how neural ensembles form thoughts and support the flexibility to change one’s mind. The research team, led by Earl Miller, the Picower Professor of Neuroscience at MIT, identified groups of neurons that encode specific behavioral rules by oscillating in synchrony with each other.
The results suggest that the nature of conscious thought may be rhythmic, according to the researchers, who published their findings in the Nov. 21 issue of Neuron.
“As we talk, thoughts float in and out of our heads. Those are all ensembles forming and then reconfiguring to something else. It’s been a mystery how the brain does this,” says Miller, who is also a member of MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory. “That’s the fundamental problem that we’re talking about — the very nature of thought itself.”
Rules for behavior
The researchers identified two neural ensembles in the brains of monkeys trained to respond to objects based on either their color or orientation. This task requires cognitive flexibility — the ability to switch between two distinct sets of rules for behavior.
“Effectively what they’re doing is focusing on some parts of information in the world and ignoring others. Which behavior they’re doing depends on the context,” says Tim Buschman, an MIT postdoc and one of the lead authors of the paper.
As the animals switched between tasks, the researchers measured the brain waves produced in different locations throughout the prefrontal cortex, where most planning and thought takes place. Those waves are generated by rhythmic fluctuations of neurons’ electrical activity.
When the animals responded to objects based on orientation, the researchers found that certain neurons oscillated at high frequencies that produce so-called beta waves. When color was the required rule, a different ensemble of neurons oscillated in the beta frequency. Some neurons overlapped, belonging to more than one group, but each ensemble had its own distinctive pattern.
Interestingly, the researchers also saw oscillations in the low-frequency alpha range among neurons that make up the orientation rule ensemble, but only when the color rule was being applied. The researchers believe that the alpha waves, which have been associated with suppression of brain activity, help to quiet the neurons that trigger the orientation rule.
“What this suggests is that orientation was dominant, and color was weaker. The brain was throwing this blast of alpha at the orientation ensemble to shut it up, so the animal could use the weaker ensemble,” Miller says.
The findings could explain how the brain can create any appropriate behavioral response to the countless possible combinations of stimuli, rules and required actions, says Pascal Fries, director of the Ernst Strungmann Institute for Neuroscience in Frankfurt, Germany.
“We likely compose the appropriate neuronal assembly on the fly through synchronization,” says Fries, who was not part of the research team. “The number of combinatorial possibilities is enormous, just like the number of possible 10-digit telephone numbers is.”
Eric Denovellis, a graduate student at Boston University, is also a lead author of the paper. Other authors are Cinira Diogo, a former Picower Institute postdoc, and Daniel Bullock, a professor of cognitive and neural systems at BU.
Oscillation as consciousness
The researchers are now trying to figure out how these neural ensembles coordinate their activity as the brain switches back and forth between different rules, or thoughts. Some neuroscientists have theorized that deeper brain structures, such as the thalamus, handle this coordination, but no one knows for sure, Miller says. “It’s one of the biggest mysteries of cognition, what controls your thoughts,” he says.
This work could also help unravel the neural basis of consciousness.
“The most fundamental characteristic of consciousness is its limited capacity. You only can hold a very few thoughts in mind simultaneously,” Miller says. These oscillations may explain why that is: Previous studies have shown that when an animal is holding two thoughts in mind, two different ensembles oscillate in beta frequencies, out of phase with one another.
“That immediately suggests why there’s a limited capacity to consciousness: Only so many balls can be kept in the air at the same time, only a limited amount of information can fit into one oscillatory cycle,” Miller says. Disruptions of these oscillations may be involved in neurological disorders such as schizophrenia; studies have shown that patients with schizophrenia have reduced beta oscillations.
The research was funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Mental Health.
- Agents with Anticipatory Behaviors: To be Cautious in a Risky Environment 2007-03-13
Cristiano Castelfranchi and Rino Falcone and Michele Piunti, European Conference Articial Intelligence (ECAI06) pp. 693-694
- Combining Gradient-Based With Evolutionary Online Learning: An Introduction to Learning Classifier Systems 2007-10-30
Seventh International Conference on Hybrid Intelligent Systems (HIS 2007), 12-17.
- Training Recurrent Neural Networks by Evolino 2007-04-17
J. Schmidhuber, D. Wierstra, M. Gagliolo, F. Gomez:
Training Recurrent Neural Networks by Evolino. To appear in