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Imagine Magazine - Johns Hopkins - May/June 2016 - (Page 6)

Illuminating the Brain Karl Deisseroth, M.D., Ph.D. D.H. Chen Professor of Bioengineering and of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Stanford University Shortly after starting his lab at Stanford in 2004, Karl Deisseroth began work on a technique that would revolutionize brain science. With graduate students Feng Zhang and Edward Boyden, over the next several years his lab developed optogenetics, in which light-sensitive proteins from algae are inserted into neurons, allowing researchers to precisely control neural activity with light. His next groundbreaking technique began as an effort with lab members Viviana Gradinaru and Charu Ramakrishnan to build polymers and hydrogels within brains, and was developed with postdoctoral fellow Kwanghun Chung into a method for rendering brains transparent but leaving neural structures intact. Called CLARITY, this technique offers researchers an unprecedented view of brain networks. A member of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine, Deisseroth is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Lurie Prize in Biomedical Sciences, the Keio Prize, the Dickson Prize, and the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences. Birth of a neuroscientist When I went to college, I was pretty serious about exploring my creative side. In my first semester at Harvard I took a creative writing course. But at the same time, I became enthralled by biological science, particularly the linkages between computation and biology. I became extremely interested in biochemical computations-how the networks of signaling molecules work inside cells. That interest broadened to neuroscience when I learned in an engineering class how the field of computational information processing and storage had influenced neuroscience in a bidirectional way. I was exposed to computational means by which you can use neuron-like programs-basically computational neural networks-to store information. At that moment there was no turning back. 6 imagine The best-laid plan Having decided that I wanted to understand aspects of how neural systems work, I thought, Well, I've got to study the most complicated one. That was the human brain. I decided to become a neurosurgeon because they had the best access to the brain. That meant I had to go to medical school. In the third and fourth years of medical school, you do rotations and get exposed to different types of medicine. I was so sure I was going to do neurosurgery that that was the very first rotation I did, and I loved it. I enjoyed the operating room. I loved the impact you could make on patients' lives. I also had to do some required rotations, including one in psychiatry. I was not looking forward to it. There were not many things I was sure I wouldn't do, but that was one of them. Then the time came when I had to do it, and it was transformative. It was fascinating to me that these patients' brains could work so differently but without a clear focus of something that you could point to that showed why: a lab test, a measurement, an image. The nature of the pathology is completely hidden. Right away I thought, This is it. This is where I should be. Beyond imagination The human brain has a blood supply, ion channels, and metabolic needs, and all the things that make a complex tissue work. What really makes it special is how it creates emotions, perception, action; how it resolves dilemmas, stores information, and creates a unitary percept out of immensely complicated information streams. There are so many incredible tasks that the brain has to do and problems that it solves, yet not only do we not know how they are done, we can't imagine how they are done. We cannot replicate those effects-that creation of emotion or affect, the high rates of information processing with fragile and low-power biological devices-in a computer. It is just amazing how the brain achieves these extremely complex cognitions and emotions and reality constructions from cells. Shedding light on neural circuits How do you understand the causal significance of what a cell or a group of cells is doing? That is really the heart of understanding how the brain works. You can look at brain imaging, and you can image blood flow during behavior with MRI, and you can put electrodes in to hear the action potentials that neurons use to communicate. But you don't May/June 2016 DEISSEROTH LAB, STANFORD UNIVERSITY in my own words

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Imagine Magazine - Johns Hopkins - May/June 2016

Big Picture
In My Own Words Karl Deisseroth, Professor of Bioengineering and of Psychiatry, Stanford University
Mind Brain Philosophy and neuroscience at CTY
A Meeting of the Minds at the National Brain Bee
Mind over Matter Overcoming communication barriers via technology
A Fish of a Different Color My neuroscience internship
Immersed in Brain Science Summer research at Rockefeller University
Brain Training Four graduate students share their research
Prime Time for Brain Science Exciting new findings, from brain maps to mindfulness
Making the Connection Teaching kids about mind, media, and health
Selected Opportunities and Resources
Pitch Perfect The lure of rugby
My Stress-Free Adventure Scuba, sailing, and discovery
Off the Shelf Review of Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant
Word Wise
Exploring Career Options Interview with neuropsychologist

Lisa Jacobson

One Step Ahead Ten commandments for college success
Planning Ahead for College Can your dream school become a reality?
Students Review New York University
Creative Minds Imagine Fiction contest winners
Mark Your Calendar
Knossos Games
Mind + Brain Philosophy and neuroscience at CTY

Imagine Magazine - Johns Hopkins - May/June 2016