Seminar: Siyuan Rao, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The Department welcomes Siyuan Rao, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr. Rao’s seminar is titled “Engineering Platform for Brain-Machine Interface”.

Diagnosis of many mental diseases relies heavily on behavioral assessment. To understand the principles of neural circuitry mechanisms and develop effective treatments, it is essential to ensure the accuracy of behavioral tests to assay phenotypes. Which kinds of tool platform can reveal causality between behavioral output and cellular activity? Engineering approaches can provide fundamental support to establish the ideal tool platform, which should have several features summarized below. Besides be minimally invasive to biological tissue and having functional longevity, this platform requires (1) widespread coverage of the neural circuitry, (2) the capability to manipulate neurons at multiple scales, ranging from individual synapse to broad neural circuits, (3) the specificity to identify targeted neural populations. I have been developing effective engineering tools for brain-machine interface to investigate the dynamics of neural circuits. My two main research directions focus on precise interventional tools for remotely controlled neuromodulation and real-time recording techniques to monitor neural dynamics. In my talk, I will first present a magnetic toolkit for remote neuromodulation, which allows remotely controlled release of pharmacological compounds to modulate targeted neural circuits. This chemomagnetic technique combines magnetic tools and behavioral neuroscience to enable temporally precise modulation of specific neural circuits underlying motivation and social interactions. In the second part, I will introduce an optical recording system to monitor neural dynamics from multiple sites across the central nervous system in freely behaving mice with simultaneous behavioral output.

Dr. Siyuan Rao is a post-doctoral associate at the Simons Center for the Social Brain, Massachusetts Institute of Technology working under the guidance of Professor Polina Anikeeva. She received her B.E. degree in Environmental Engineering from Beihang University, China in 2010. She completed her Ph.D. in Material Physics and Chemistry at Beihang University, China in 2015. Her research is focused on energy conversion devices, such as rhodopsin-based photoelectric cells, direct methanol fuel cells.

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