Michael M. Halassa, M.D., Ph.D.

2017 Pew Biomedical Scholars
Title
Assistant Professor
Department
Brain and Cognitive Sciences
Institution
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Address
43 Vassar St
City, State, Zip
Cambridge, MA 02139
Phone
(617) 253-5757
E-mail
mhalassa@mit.edu
Website
http://halassalab.mit.edu/about
Research Field
Neuroscience
Award Year
2017

Research

My lab studies the neural circuits and computations that allow us to focus, sustain, and switch our attention. We are continuously bombarded with sensory information and must make decisions—adjusted from moment to moment—about which events are most relevant: When awaiting a phone call, for example, we become more alert to the sound of a ring tone. After setting up my lab, we discovered that a brain region called the thalamus plays an unexpected role in shifting an animal’s attention from one type of stimulus to another. Now, using a combination of techniques for monitoring and manipulating neuronal activity, we will determine how the thalamus acts to amplify the functional connectivity of neurons in the brain regions that allow animals to maintain attention—work that could lead to novel approaches to boosting cognitive function and overcoming attention deficits in disorders such as autism, schizophrenia, and ADHD.

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