Two faculty members at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT have received awards to develop new technologies to study the brain. The McKnight Technological Innovations in Neuroscience awards are given annually to advance the range of technologies available for studying the brain and the diseases that affect it. This year, two of the three award recipients are from the McGovern Institute. The winners were selected from more than 70 applicants.
Guoping Feng and Feng Zhang will each receive $200,000 over two years to pursue "novel and unusual approaches that can expand the range of technologies available to the neuroscience research community." The McKnight Endowment Fund for Neuroscience, which administers the awards, is especially interested in how technology may be used or adapted to monitor, manipulate, analyze or model brain function at any level, from molecular interactions to whole-organism behavior.
Guoping Feng, the Poitras Professor of Neuroscience in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, is developing a new way to genetically modify neurons that are activated by a specific behavior in a precisely defined period of time. He plans to use the method to identify neural circuits involved in obsessive-compulsive disorder and autism.
Feng Zhang, who holds a joint appointment at the Broad Institute, is designing molecular tools that can modify the genome of neurons more precisely and effectively than conventional genetic manipulation. By applying these methods, he hopes to generate new animal models of human brain disorders in order to study their underlying biological mechanisms.
The technologies developed through McKnight support will ultimately be made available to other scientists.