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Jay McClelland | Mriganka Sur

Mriganka Sur

Mriganka Sur Picture

Brain Wiring and Brain Function

Mriganka Sur
Newton Professor of Neuroscience
Head of Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and Director of Simons Initiative on Autism and the Brain
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, USA

Room 145 CAS, 5:15 – 6:45 PM, October 31, 2011
Refreshments will be served outside the lecture hall 5:00 - 5:30 PM

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The human brain is perhaps the most fantastic machine in the universe. It has 100 billion (10**11) cells or neurons, and each neuron interconnects with hundreds of other neurons via, on average, 10 thousand (10**4) connections or synapses. Thus, the brain has 10**15 synapses - this staggering number of connections is one reason for the complexity of brain processing. Another is the precision of wiring between neurons in order to make networks and modules. Neurons are not simply interconnected with any and all other neurons; rather, they make precise connections with a subset of cells and form networks that process information. Networks are the engine of the brain, for they transform simple inputs to make complex outputs, often via nonlinear operations. The brain has been compared to a computer, but differs in one fundamental respect: the brain wires itself. Understanding how the brain is wired may be key to understanding how it gives rise to the mind and creates intelligence. Research in our laboratory demonstrates that specificity and plasticity are both fundamental requirements for brain wiring. The underlying mechanisms provide critical clues for repairing the brain after damage or disease.

Short bio

Mriganka Sur is the Newton Professor of Neuroscience, Head of the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, and Director of the Simons Initiative on Autism and the Brain at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Professor Sur studies the organization, development and plasticity of the cerebral cortex of the brain using experimental and theoretical approaches. He has discovered fundamental principles by which networks of the cerebral cortex are wired during development and change dynamically during learning. His laboratory has identified gene networks underlying cortical plasticity, and pioneered high resolution imaging methods to study cells, synapses and circuits of the intact brain. Recently, his group has demonstrated novel mechanisms underlying disorders of brain development, and proposed innovative strategies for treating such disorders.

Professor Sur received the B. Tech. degree in Electrical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, in 1974 and the Ph.D. degree in Electrical Engineering from Vanderbilt University, Nashville, in 1978. He has received numerous awards and honors, including the Charles Judson Herrick Award of the American Association of Anatomists, the A.P. Sloan Fellowship, the McKnight Development Award, the Hans-Lukas Teuber Scholar Award, the Distinguished Alumnus Award of the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, the Sigma Xi Lectureship, and the Foundation Day Medal of the National Brain Research Center, India. At MIT, he has received awards for outstanding teaching and been recognized with the Sherman Fairchild and Newton Chairs. He has been elected Fellow of the Royal Society of the UK, and a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Neuroscience Research Program, the National Academy of Sciences, India, the Rodin Academy, Sweden, and the Third World Academy of Sciences.