Annual Message from Ehud Isacoff

Director, Berkeley Neuroscience (2013-present)
Professor of Neurobiology, Molecular and Cell Biology Department

-February 9th, 2018-

The heart of Berkeley Neuroscience is always our outstanding faculty members, their students and postdocs and their individual research pursuits. So it is always a great pleasure to welcome new members to the family. Welcome to David Foster (Psychology), Na Ji (Physics and MCB), Markita Landry (Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering), Teresa Puthussery (Optometry), and Rowland Taylor (Optometry), and Kevin Weiner (Psychology). We look forward to Eric Betzig (Physics and MCB) joining us in 2018. I also want to congratulate our faculty members who have won prestigious awards (see award announcements), as well as Federal BRAIN Initiative funding:

  • Cell atlas of mouse brain. A Berkeley team led by John Ngai is partnering with the Allen Institute for Brain Science on a $65.5M NIH BRAIN Initiative grant to build a comprehensive atlas of cell types and connections in the mouse brain.
  • Volumetric imaging of neural activity. New member Na Ji was awarded $2.7M from NIH to develop a new method for high-speed volumetric imaging of neural activity throughout the living brain.
  • Million Neuron Cortical Modem. An interdisciplinary team from MCB, EECS, Psychology and Redwood, including Hillel Adesnik, Laura Waller, Ren Ng, Jose Carmena, Jack Gallant, Fritz Sommer, Rikky Muller, and me, received $21.6M from DARPA to design an all-optical read-write brain device that can crack the sensory code and provide operationally accurate patterned neuronal stimulation to encode sensory perceptions.
  • Highest resolution MRI in the world. A Berkeley team led by David Feinberg was awarded $13.43 million from NIH and $7 million from the UCB campus to develop ultra-high resolution MRI. The NexGen 7T scanner will resolve individual cortical columns and layers, a critical advance in our quest to understand human cognition.

This year we also launched The Radical Ideas in Brain Science Challenge, made possible through the generosity of Berkeley Brain Initiative donors Andrea and Peter Roth, P’05. This campus-wide competition for $300K in seed funding incentivizes collaborations between disciplines to make progress on the focus areas of the Berkeley Brain Initiative. Our first award recipients are Markita Landry, who is developing dopamine nanosensors, and Linda Wilbrecht, Marla Feller, and Jose Carmena who are using these sensors to study motivation, learning, social interactions, control of movement and retinal circuits.

We are privileged to live in the Bay Area, where there are unique opportunities for collaborations with the technological giants of Silicon Valley. This year, UC Berkeley partnered with Stanford and UC San Francisco in the $600M Chan Zuckerberg Biohub to enable breakthrough biomedical discoveries. Five of the selected Chan Zuckerburg Biohub Investigators from UC Berkeley are doing work in neuroscience: Ke Xu, Laura Waller, Michel Maharbiz, Rikky Muller, and Markita Landry.

Our focus for the coming year is to enable the next wave of progress with a major fundraising campaign, to expand support of existing and create new research capabilities and facilities, to hire additional top-notch faculty, and to expand support for students and postdoctoral fellows. With our first interviews of graduate student applicants just completed, there is reason for great optimism: we are looking at a very promising entering class.

Up next

Learn more about the Berkeley Neuroscience PhD Program in the annual message from PhD Program Director Michael Silver.

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