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2020 Awards


Awarded to Professor Joseph Kirschvink

Headshot Joe Kirschvink

Biophysics of a Possible Magnetite-based Geomagnetic Sensory System in the Planarian, Dugesia dorotocephala. Although many migratory and homing organisms are known to have a geomagnetic sensory system, the ultrastructure of the sensory cells involved in geomagnetic field transduction remains unknown. Kirschvink will conduct a series of behavioral, anatomical and biophysical experiments to isolate the magnetosensory cells of the D. dorotocephala, to characterize their structure and biophysical properties, and to use these insights to constrain possible models of magneto-transduction.

Awarded to Professor Kai Zinn

Kai Zinn

Efficient enzymatic coupling of antibodies and receptors to oligonucleotides for neuroscience and cell biology applications. The Zinn lab has recently developed methods to covalently attach high-affinity binding proteins to oligonucleotides in a one-step reaction. They are using these binding proteins/enzymes to label antibodies and biotinylated cell surface proteins with specific oligonucleotides. These protein-oligonucleotide complexes may have many applications in neuroscience, cell biology, and molecular biology.


Awarded to Professor Antonio Rangel

Antonio Rangel

Changes in the neurocomputational basis of human simple choice with extensive experience and training: initial exploratory studies
The goal of this project is to carry out extensive piloting of the feasibility of studying how the neurocomputational basis of simple choices changes with extensive experience, using fMRI and long-term human subjects. The data and results generated by this pilot project will be used as the basis for an NIH RO1 application to fund a full larger study.


Awarded to Professor John Allman

John Allman

Diffusion imaging of an Elephant Brain
In this project Allman will investigate the micro-anatomy and connections of the brain of a rare completely intact elephant brain with ex-vivo structural and diffusion MR imaging, which will then be compared with histological sections from the same specimen.

Awarded to Professor Anima Anandkumar

Headshot Anima Anandkumar

Understanding the role of feedback in vision
Feedback is a ubiquitous anatomical feature of the brain but its function remains largely unknown. Visual neuroscience has been dominated by work on feedforward transformations, raising the critical question: what is the role of feedback in visual computation? This project will pursue the hypothesis that feedback serves to implement a generative model of the visual world, incorporating priors that make it possible to resolve visual ambiguity. 

Awarded to Assistant Professor Scott Cushing and Assistant Professor Eilzabeth Hong

Headshot Scott Cushing     Betty Hong     

Low Power, Entangled, Two Photon Microscope for Live Imaging in Neuroscience
Two-photon imaging techniques have accelerated progress in biology and neuroscience by allowing deep imaging of live samples. However, the two-photon absorption cross section is significantly lower than that of a one-photon process, requiring the use of high-peak intensity pulsed laser sources. The high peak intensity leads to instantaneous tissue damage as well as long term heating and warping of the sample. This project will examine the use of entangled photons to perform two-photon imaging at equivalent signal levels to a classical pulsed laser, but at a million times lower peak intensity and a thousand times lower average power.

Awarded to Professor Markus Meister and Professor Yisong Yue

Markus Meister     Yisong Yue

Transformator Scientiae: Expert-Guided Neural Knowledge Extraction from Brain Science Corpora
This project will aim to create a computational engine that can extract knowledge from the scientific literature, and aid in the direction of future research in brain science. There is great need for a system that exploits the ever-expanding scale of scientific knowledge at a scope inaccessible for any single human participant. This is the domain of computational learning machines. Such a system would be invaluable in guiding scientists, who could make informed decisions rapidly in a way that might require months if one wanted to query a large team of human experts.

Awarded to Professor Alexander Varshavsky

Headshot Alexander Varshavsky

Experimental Approaches to Verifying the Fragment Generation (FG) Hypothesis About the Cause/Function of Sleep.
This project seeks to verify, in detail, specific predictions of the fragment generation (FG) hypothesis about the cause/function of sleep. The molecular-level cause of sleep is still unknown. The FG hypothesis was proposed in 2012. By now, this hypothesis has became more detailed through additional and specific ideas. These verifiable propositions will be examined.


4 supplemental grants were awarded to existing BMI projects