2020 MBM Retreat Abstracts

Penny Burgoon: “Translational science: career development in a developing field”

Abstract: Penny Wung Burgoon will introduce the audience to the mission of the National Center for Advancing Translational Science (NCATS), including the goals for developing translational science to improve translational research. She also will discuss the Center’s efforts to develop, demonstrate, and disseminate translational science as career.

Na Ji: “Imaging the brain at high spatiotemporal resolution”

Abstract: To understand computation in the brain, one needs to understand the input-output relationships for neural circuits and the anatomical and functional relationships of individual neurons therein. Optical microscopy has emerged as an ideal tool in this quest, as it is capable of recording the activity of neurons distributed over millimeter dimensions with sub-micron spatial resolution. I will describe how we use concepts in astronomy and optics to develop next-generation microscopy methods for imaging the brain at higher resolution, greater depth, and faster speed. By shaping the wavefront of the light, we have achieved synapse-level spatial resolution through the entire depth of primary visual cortex, optimized microendoscopes for imaging deeply buried nuclei, and developed video-rate volumetric and kilohertz functional imaging methods. We apply these methods to understanding neural circuits, using the mouse brain as our model system.

Alysson Muotri: “Brain Model Technology and applications in biology and engineering”

Abstract: Structural and transcriptional changes during early brain maturation follow fixed developmental programs defined by genetics. However, whether this is true for functional network activity remains unknown, primarily due to experimental inaccessibility of the initial stages of the living human brain. We developed cortical organoids that spontaneously display periodic and regular oscillatory network events that are dependent on glutamatergic and GABAergic signaling. These nested oscillations exhibit cross-frequency coupling, proposed to coordinate neuronal computation and communication. As evidence of potential network maturation, oscillatory activity subsequently transitioned to more spatiotemporally irregular patterns, capturing features observed in preterm human electroencephalography (EEG). These results show that the development of structured network activity in the human neocortex may follow stable genetic programming, even in the absence of external or subcortical inputs. Our approach provides novel opportunities for investigating and manipulating the role of network activity in the developing human cortex. Applications for neurodevelopmental disorders, brain evolution and engineering will be discussed.