The Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute for Neuroscience at Caltech comprises five interdisciplinary research centers focused on exploring and understanding the intricacies and complexities of the brain's structure and function at all scales.
The centers bring together scientists and engineers who study brain processes in different species to uncover general principles, as well as researchers who create new instruments and methods to answer previously unanswerable questions.
David J. Anderson, the Seymour Benzer Professor of Biology at Caltech and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, will serve as the director of the new neuroscience institute.
The five centers are:
Led by Richard Andersen, Caltech's James G. Boswell Professor of Neuroscience, the T&C Chen Brain-Machine Interface Center will advance Caltech's work on a new generation of devices that can communicate with and stimulate the brain. Recordings allow intentions to be read out to assist paralyzed people to perform fluid motions using robotic limbs simply by thinking about moving. Stimulation will allow the evocation of new perceptions, helping those who have lost sensation from paralysis or brain diseases. The T&C Chen Brain-Machine Interface Center will support every aspect of this effort, from the investigation of the basic science of intention and perception to technology development and clinical studies.
Under the direction of Colin Camerer, Caltech's Robert Kirby Professor of Behavioral Economics, the T&C Chen Center for Social and Decision Neuroscience will investigate two important higher-order functions of the human brain: making decisions, and processing and guiding social interactions. Using the center's resources for computational modeling and brain imaging, researchers from different areas of science will collaborate to learn more about these two core functions. Their findings will help improve how we make personal decisions, allow researchers to design devices and interventions to benefit society, and inform new treatments for neurologically based disorders such as anxiety and autism.
The T&C Chen Center for Systems Neuroscience—directed by Doris Tsao, professor of biology and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator—will address the challenge of understanding how a large group of neurons firing in concert gives rise to cognition. The Caltech researchers working in this center will explore the neural circuits and computations that underlie perception, thought, emotion, memory, decision making, and behavior. Scientists within the center will collaborate to tackle each of these brain systems, as well as the larger question of how these systems interact so seamlessly. The center will back their new and best ideas with seed funding, computing resources, and labs in which they can develop powerful new scientific tools.
The Center for Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience, led by Viviana Gradinaru, Caltech assistant professor of biology and biological engineering and a Heritage Medical Research Institute Investigator, will unite a contingent of Caltech researchers who are making discoveries about the brain's anatomy and development, how neurons communicate, and how processes in the brain can go wrong. In bringing these researchers together, the center will catalyze fundamental new approaches that will help us to understand how the brain works as a whole and to develop new instruments and methods for analyzing the roles that cells and molecules can play in perception, behavior, and disease.
The Caltech Brain Imaging Center (CBIC), originally founded in 2003 through a gift from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and directed by Caltech professor of psychology John O'Doherty, will make available state-of-the-art instruments and expert staff to provide detailed measurements of the working brain. The CBIC has already made possible more than a decade of discoveries, helping faculty and students gain insight into how people learn and make economic decisions, how they perceive the world and experience conscious thought, and what makes up the neural basis of disorders such as autism, addiction, and congenital brain abnormalities.