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Ed Boyden

Posted on 29 May 2013 Comments Off

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Prof. Ed Boyden

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Ed Boyden leads the Synthetic Neurobiology group at MIT, where he is the Benesse Career Development Professor at the MIT Media Lab, and associate professor of biological engineering and brain and cognitive sciences at the MIT McGovern Institute.

The tools his group has invented include a suite of ‘optogenetic’ tools that are now in use by hundreds of groups around the world, for activating and silencing neurons with light. These tools for the first time enable the activation, silencing, and readout of specific neurons, revealing with real-time precision their effects. Using a combination of lasers and genetic engineering, he implants brains with optical fibers that allow him to activate special proteins in specific neurons and see their connections. In addition to helping create detailed maps of brain circuitry, the engineering of these cells has been used to cure blindness in mice, and could point the way to cures for Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, or to ways of connecting to the brain via prosthetics.

Prof. Boyden has launched an award-winning series of classes at MIT that teach principles of neuroengineering, starting with basic principles of how to control and observe neural functions, and culminating with strategies for launching companies in the nascent neurotechnology space. He has contributed to over 250 peer-reviewed papers, current or pending patents, and articles, and has given over 140 invited talks on his work.

He was named to the “Top 35 Innovators Under the Age of 35″ by Technology Review in 2006, and to the “Top 20 Brains Under Age 40″ by Discover magazine in 2008. He has received the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, the Society for Neuroscience Research Award for Innovation in Neuroscience, the NSF CAREER Award, the Paul Allen Distinguished Investigator Award, and the New York Stem Cell Robertson Investigator Award. In 2010, his work was recognized as the “Method of the Year” by the journal Nature Methods, and in 2011 he delivered a lecture on his lab’s work at TED.

Prof. Boyden received three degrees in electrical engineering and physics from MIT, and his PhD in neurosciences from Stanford University as a Hertz Fellow, where he discovered that the molecular mechanisms used to store a memory are determined by the content to be learned.

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