SCSB News


MIT scientists honored in each of the three Kavli Prize categories: neuroscience, nanoscience, and astrophysics, respectively. Source: [MIT News, School of Science | June 12, 2024] MIT faculty members Nancy Kanwisher, Robert Langer, and Sara Seager are among eight researchers worldwide to receive this year’s Kavli Prizes. A partnership among the […]

Nancy Kanwisher, Robert Langer, and Sara Seager named Kavli Prize ...


New research addresses a gap in understanding how ketamine’s impact on individual neurons leads to pervasive and profound changes in brain network function. Source: [David Orenstein, The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory | June 4, 2024] Ketamine, a World Health Organization Essential Medicine, is widely used at varying doses […]

Study models how ketamine’s molecular action leads to its effects ...


The findings also reveal why identifying objects in black-and-white images is more difficult for individuals who were born blind and had their sight restored. Source: [Anne Trafton | MIT News | May 23, 2024] Even though the human visual system has sophisticated machinery for processing color, the brain has no problem recognizing […]

Study explains why the brain can robustly recognize images, even ...




An unmistakable takeaway from sessions of “UnrulyArt” is that all those “n’ts”—can’t, needn’t, shouldn’t, won’t—that can lead people to exclude children with disabilities or cognitive, social and behavioral impairments from creative activities aren’t really rules. They are merely assumptions and stigmas. When a session ends and the paint that was […]

Researchers and staff from MIT, including from the Simons Center ...



A new study co-led by Anna (Anya) Ivanova highlights how human neuroscience is paving the way for AI innovation — and what AI can teach us about ourselves. Source: [Georgia Tech News Center | March 19, 2024] One of the hallmarks of humanity is language, but now, powerful new artificial […]

Researchers Reveal Roadmap for AI Innovation in Brain and Language ...


An MIT study finds the brains of polyglots expend comparatively little effort when processing their native language. Source: [Anne Trafton, MIT News | March 10, 2024] A new study of people who speak many languages has found that there is something special about how the brain processes their native language. In […]

For people who speak many languages, there’s something special about ...



Team-based targeted projects, multi-mentor fellowships ensure that scientists studying social cognition, behavior, and autism integrate multiple perspectives and approaches to pressing questions. The secret to the success of MIT’s Simons Center for the Social Brain is in the name. With a founding philosophy of “collaboration and community” that has supported […]

Simons Center’s collaborative approach propels autism research, at MIT and ...


Across mammalian species, brain waves are slower in deep cortical layers, while superficial layers generate faster rhythms. Source [Anne Trafton, MIT News | January 18, 2024]  Throughout the brain’s cortex, neurons are arranged in six distinctive layers, which can be readily seen with a microscope. A team of MIT and […]

Study reveals a universal pattern of brain wave frequencies


Source [David Orenstein, Picower News | November 2, 2023] Picower Institute-based collaboration will study mechanisms that might enable peripheral immune cells to deliver a potentially therapeutic molecule to the brain. A new three-year research project, funded by the Simons Center for the Social Brain at MIT, posits that the immune system can […]

New grant to study possibility of an immunotherapy for autism


It’s not easy to parse young children’s words, but adults’ beliefs about what children want to communicate helps make it possible, a new study finds. Source: [Anne Trafton, MIT News | October 26, 2023] When babies first begin to talk, their vocabulary is very limited. Often one of the first […]

How adults understand what kids are saying



Source: [Spectrum News, Samantha Easter, Amy S.F. Lutz | October 24, 2023] Much attention has been paid recently to conflict within the autism community, between autistic adults and parents of profoundly autistic children — from a piece in Nature in May to a Spectrum article on the topic in January to a 2021 post on the “Today Show” blog about […]

Building bridges: Collaboration across the autism community


[Spectrum News, Maris Fessenden / September 26, 2023] A new lightweight device with a wisplike tether can record neural activity while mice jump, run and explore their environment. The open-source recording system, which its creators call ONIX, overcomes several of the limitations of previous systems and enables the rodents to move more […]

Lightweight system captures brain activity while mice jump


[MIT News | Maura R. O’Connor, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences | September 22, 2023] Over a decade ago, the neuroscientist Ev Fedorenko asked 48 English speakers to complete tasks like reading sentences, recalling information, solving math problems, and listening to music. As they did this, she scanned their […]

Re-imagining our theories of language


In a simple game that humans typically ace, mice learn the winning strategy, too, but refuse to commit to it, new research shows. [MIT News, David Orenstein | The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory | September 15, 2023] Neuroscience discoveries ranging from the nature of memory to treatments for disease have […]

Study decodes surprising approach mice take in learning



[Spectrum News, Peter Hess | March 23, 2023] Roughly 1 in 36 8-year-olds in the United States has autism, according to 2020 prevalence data released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This figure represents a nearly 20 percent increase over the agency’s 2018 estimate of 1 in 44 and continues a decades-long […]

U.S. autism prevalence continues to rise as race and sex ...


[Picower News, David Orenstein | March 11, 2023] On March 10 the FDA approved Trofinetide, a drug based on the protein IGF-1, as the first drug available to treat Rett syndrome. The original research showing that IGF-1 could treat Rett syndrome was published by MIT in 2009. Rett syndrome is a […]

3 questions for Mriganka Sur: The basic research origin of ...


[Picower News, David Orenstein | March 10, 2023] When astrocyte function is disrupted, neurons in the brain’s motor cortex struggle to execute and refine motion, a new study in mice shows. From steering a car to swinging a tennis racket, we learn to execute all kinds of skilled movements during […]

Astrocyte cells critical for learning skilled movements


[Spectrum News, Shaena Montanari | March 2, 2023]   Margaret Brimble was a new professor in 1999 at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. The country was not exactly known as a hotbed of drug development, but Brimble was an optimist, a dedicated chemist and maybe even a bit […]

Debut drug for Rett syndrome at edge of approval



The Simons Center for the Social Brain (SCSB) at MIT, which celebrated its 10th anniversary last year, is pleased to announce its renewal with a $25M commitment from SFARI (the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative) for the next five years. SCSB will continue to focus on understanding the neural mechanisms […]

Simons Center for the Social Brain at MIT Renewed with ...


[UMass Amherst News | January 13, 2023] Assistant Professor Siyuan Rao of the UMass Amherst Biomedical Engineering Department has received a grant from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, or AFOSR, to study “Non-invasive Cell-type-specific Magnetic Neural Modulation,” a next-generation technique for investigating neurological and psychiatric disorders, including depression, addiction, […]

Siyuan Rao, past Simons Fellow, Receives Prestigious AFOSR Young Investigator ...


Built on recent advances in machine learning, the model predicts how well individuals will produce and comprehend sentences. [Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences | December 22, 2022] Cognitive scientists have long sought to understand what makes some sentences more difficult to comprehend than others. Any account of language comprehension, […]

Cognitive scientists develop new model explaining difficulty in language comprehension


[Spectrum News, Anila D’Mello | December 22, 2022] Listen to this story: How scientists can counteract their unwitting contributions to autism’s sex bias Audio Playe The amount of research dedicated to understanding autism has grown rapidly, with more than 50,000 papers about the condition published over the past decade alone. To […]

How scientists can counteract their unwitting contributions to autism’s sex ...



MIT researchers are discovering which parts of the brain are engaged when a person evaluates a computer program. [Steve Nadis | MIT CSAIL | December 21, 2022] Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which measures changes in blood flow throughout the brain, has been used over the past couple of decades for a […]

This is your brain. This is your brain on code


Researchers discover that to sharpen its control over precise maneuvers, the brain uses comparisons between control signals — not the signals themselves. [Kevin Hartnett | Quanta Magazine | November 28, 2022] A mouse is running on a treadmill embedded in a virtual reality corridor. In its mind’s eye, it sees […]

The Brain Uses Calculus to Control Fast Movements


Large scale ECoG recording during social scene watching and social behaviors in marmosets Authors: *H. Xu, Y. Su, J. Sharma, W. Menegas, C. Trimmer, F. Liang, R. Landman, B. Zhang, M. Sur, R. Saxe, G. Feng, R. Desimone Abstract: Humans can understand social scenes at a glance. Abilities such as […]

SCSB @ the 2022 Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting


Professors Mark Bear and Laura Kiessling ’83, along with Krishna Shenoy SM ’92, PhD ’95, David Tuveson ’87, and Martin Burke are among the newly elected members. On October 17, the National Academy of Medicine announced the election of 100 new members to join their esteemed ranks. MIT faculty members Laura […]

Five with MIT ties elected to the National Academy of ...



[Anne Trafton | MIT News Office | October 12, 2022] Gloria Choi’s studies of how the immune system and nervous system influence each other could yield new approaches to treating neurological disorders.   When Gloria Choi was making plans to launch her research lab at MIT, nearly 10 years ago, she thought […]

Building a bridge between neuroscience and immunology


[Emma Yasinski | Spectrum News | October 4, 2022] The Children’s Communication Checklist 2 (CCC-2) could help identify children with social-pragmatic communication difficulties, a new study has found. Although few children meet the diagnostic criteria for social (pragmatic) communication disorder (SCD) on its own, many with autism or other types of language problems also […]

Social-pragmatic difficulties common with autism, other diagnoses


Neurons derived from the cells of a person with fragile X syndrome develop atypically when transplanted into a mouse’s brain, a new study has found. Some of the differences replicate those seen in the brains of people with fragile X syndrome. Researchers have struggled to create mice that accurately model the condition, […]

Fragile X neurons develop atypically in chimeric mice


[Peter Hess | Spectrum News | September 14, 2022] A large mutation that leads to fragile X syndrome in people does not set off the same genetic cascade in mice, a new study shows. The work highlights the limitations of using mice to model the condition and the need to explore other model animals, […]

Largest-yet fragile X mutation in mice confirms model’s shortcomings



A commonly used screening test creates a gender gap that may hinder diagnosis and treatment for women and girls. [Anne Trafton | MIT News Office | September 8, 2022] In recent years, researchers who study autism have made an effort to include more women and girls in their studies. However, despite these […]

Studies of autism tend to exclude women, researchers find


Using organoids to model early development, researchers used an emerging microscopy technology to see that new neurons struggled to reach their developmental destination. [David Orenstein | Picower Institute for Learning and Memory | August 3, 2022] Using an innovative microscopy method, scientists at The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT […]

Advanced imaging reveals mired migration of neurons in Rett syndrome ...


To ensure a quick halt, brain circuit architecture avoids a slow process of integration in favor of quicker differentiation, study finds. [David Orenstein | Picower Institute for Learning and Memory | July 28, 2022] Your new apartment is just a couple of blocks down the street from the bus stop, but today […]

Sprint then stop? The brain is wired for the math ...


Studying speakers of 45 languages, neuroscientists found similar patterns of brain activation and language selectivity. [Anne Trafton | MIT News Office | July 18, 2022] Over several decades, neuroscientists have created a well-defined map of the brain’s “language network,” or the regions of the brain that are specialized for processing language. Found […]

Whether speaking Turkish or Norwegian, the brain’s language network looks ...



[Leah Campbell | Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences | June 21, 2022] A team of cognitive scientists and doctors finds that patients with aphasia use different cognitive tools to compensate for language deficits. Bruce Willis’s recent announcement that he was retiring from acting brought widespread public attention to the neurological condition […]

Study illuminates trade-off between complex words and complex sentences


[Anne Trafton | MIT News | June 1, 2022] Unexpected outcomes trigger release of noradrenaline, which helps the brain focus its attention and learn from the event. When your brain needs you to pay attention to something important, one way it can do that is to send out a burst of noradrenaline, […]

How the brain responds to surprising events


Source: [Anne Trafton | MIT News Office, May 25, 2022] Modeling study suggests that the muffled environment in utero primes the brain’s ability to interpret some types of sound. Inside the womb, fetuses can begin to hear some sounds around 20 weeks of gestation. However, the input they are exposed to is […]

Early sound exposure in the womb shapes the auditory system


Source: [Jason Sparapani | Department of Materials Science and Engineering | MIT News | May 13, 2022] Professor Polina Anikeeva’s innovation in the treatment of neurological disorders highlights the interdisciplinary nature of her field. A pivotal moment in Polina Anikeeva’s career was when she looked at an MRI scan of Parkinson’s disease […]

Is it neuroscience? Chemistry? Art? Wulff Lecture shows versatility, diversity ...



Source: [David Orenstein | Picower Institute for Learning and Memory | May 2, 2022] Innovative brain-wide mapping study shows that an “engram,” the ensemble of neurons encoding a memory, is widely distributed and includes regions not previously realized. A new study by scientists at The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at […]

A single memory is stored across many connected brain regions


Source: [MIT News Office | April 28, 2022] Prestigious honor society announces more than 250 new members. Seven MIT faculty members are among more than 250 leaders from academia, the arts, industry, public policy, and research elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the academy announced Thursday. One […]

Seven from MIT elected to American Academy of Arts and ...


Source: [David Orenstein | Picower Institute for Learning and Memory | April 28, 2022] Competitive seed grants launch yearlong investigations of novel hypotheses about potential causes, biomarkers, treatments of Alzheimer’s and ALS. Neurodegenerative diseases are defined by an increasingly widespread and debilitating death of nervous system cells, but they also share other […]

Aging Brain Initiative awards fund five new ideas to study, ...


Source: [McGovern News | Jennifer Michalowski | April 26, 2022] From search engines to voice assistants, computers are getting better at understanding what we mean. That’s thanks to language processing programs that make sense of a staggering number of words, without ever being told explicitly what those words mean. Such programs infer […]

What words can convey



With a comprehensive map of the wiring, researchers can now discern what information flows into the circuit to enable a key brain function Source: [David Orenstein | Picower Institute | April 21, 2022] In a new brain-wide circuit tracing study, scientists at MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory focused selective attention […]

Circuit that focuses attention brings in wide array of inputs


When artificial intelligence is tasked with visually identifying objects and faces, it assigns specific components of its network to face recognition — just like the human brain. Source: [Jennifer Michalowski | McGovern Institute for Brain Research | April 6, 2022] The human brain seems to care a lot about faces. It’s dedicated […]

An optimized solution for face recognition


These cells, located in the brain’s striatum, appear to help with decision-making that requires evaluating risks and benefits. Source: [Anne Trafton | MIT News Office | March 24, 2022] When we make complex decisions, we have to take many factors into account. Some choices have a high payoff but carry potential risks; […]

Study finds neurons that encode the outcomes of actions


Tracing connections between neuron populations could help researchers map brain circuits that underlie behavior and perception. Source: [Anne Trafton | MIT News Office | March 3, 2022] Using a novel probe for functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), MIT biological engineers have devised a way to monitor individual populations of neurons and reveal […]

New MRI probe can reveal more of the brain’s inner ...



Source: [Picower News, David Orenstein | February 28, 2022] National Institute recognizes innovations and research elucidating neuronal plasticity and computations The American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) has elected Mriganka Sur, Newton Professor of Neuroscience in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT to its College of Fellows. Peers […]

Mriganka Sur elected to the 2022 class of the AIMBE ...


Professor and cognitive neuroscientist recognized for groundbreaking work on the functional organization of the human brain. Source: [Julie Pryor | McGovern Institute for Brain Research | January 31, 2022] The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has announced that Nancy Kanwisher, the Walter A. Rosenblith Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience in MIT’s Department of Brain and Cognitive […]

Nancy Kanwisher wins National Academy of Sciences Award in the ...


Sharing food and kissing are among the signals babies use to interpret their social world, according to a new study. Source: [Anne Trafton | MIT News Office | January 20, 2022] Learning to navigate social relationships is a skill that is critical for surviving in human societies. For babies and young children, […]

Babies can tell who has close relationships based on one ...