Advances in understanding brain function and brain disorders are often enabled by cutting-edge technology. The Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute fosters technological advances by sponsoring Technology Centers. These centers bring together physical scientists (e.g., from physics, chemistry, computer science, and engineering) and neuroscientists to develop tools for neuroscience research, and apply these tools to advance our understanding of the brain.

Brain Microscopy Innovation Center (BrainMIC)

Rebecca Voglewede (student from Tulane University, Mostany Lab) and Ben Shababo (lab guide and Berkeley Neuroscience PhD Program student, Adesnik Lab)
Rebecca Voglewede (student from Tulane University, Mostany Lab) and Ben Shababo (lab guide and Berkeley Neuroscience PhD Program student, Adesnik Lab)

The BrainMIC is a public-private partnership between UC Berkeley and ZEISS Microscopy, LLC, one of the leading microscope companies in the world. The mission of the BrainMIC is to provide the technology and training required to make new optical tools accessible to the broad neuroscience community. For new optical tools to yield breakthrough discoveries, there is a need for commercially available microscopes that are optimized for use with emerging neurotechnologies. Using novel approaches developed at UC Berkeley, the BrainMIC will help fast-track the commercial developments of new microscopes, optical components, and analysis methods. In addition to training Berkeley researchers to use our nascent imaging systems, the BrainMIC opens its doors to researchers from other universities during the annual course,“4D Advanced Microscopy of Brain Circuits.”

>See the latest BrainMIC news

Center for Neural Engineering and Prostheses (CNEP)

03.Brain.Interface.BCDDeep brain stimulators that treat the symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease and brain-implantable prosthetic systems that help a disabled person move a computer cursor or robotic arm are exciting examples of a new frontier in neuroscience – engineering neural interfaces that can correct for neurological maladies. Neural interfaces can potentially be applied to treat a wide range of disabilities, from loss of vision or motor control to psychological conditions like depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. CNEP, led by co-directors Jose Carmena and Edward Chang, brings together neuroscientists, neurologists, and engineers from UC Berkeley and UCSF to develop breakthrough technologies to restore neural function. CNEP is a non-profit, research-based organization with the ultimate goal of transferring its innovations into common medical practice.

> Go to the CNEP website
> See the latest CNEP news

Functional Genomics Laboratory (FGL)

2000px-DNA_microarray.svgThe recent sequencing of the entire human genome and the genomes of many model organisms (e.g., worm, fly, fish, mouse) provide a wealth of molecular information that can be used to understand the genetic basis of nervous system function, development, behavior, and disease. FGL, led by Professor John Ngai, creates and exploits the most advanced gene microarray and other high-throughput genomics technologies to address neurobiological questions at the genome-wide level. The facility houses microarray and fluidics robots, microarray scanners, PCR machines for processing of DNA samples, DNA sequencers, and software for gene chip and expression profile analyses. Equipment is being continuously updated to match rapidly evolving genomics technology. The FGL is a core facility of the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences and is open to both university and industrial users.

> Go to the FGL website

Henry H. Wheeler, Jr. Brain Imaging Center (BIC)

A flattened representation of the human brain imaged at the BIC. Colors correspond to the brain’s activation in response to certain words or images. Image courtesy of Alex Huth, Gallant Lab.
A flattened representation of the human brain imaged at the BIC. Colors correspond to the brain’s activation in response to certain words or images. Image courtesy of Alex Huth, Gallant Lab.

The ability to visualize brain activity in people using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has revolutionized cognitive and clinical neuroscience, by providing a window on brain function and dysfunction. The BIC, led by Professor Mark D’Esposito, is one of the most innovative and powerful imaging facilities in the world dedicated solely to basic research on human and animal brain function. The BIC houses a 4 Tesla and a 3 Tesla MRI scanner, and is built upon active collaboration between cognitive neuroscientists, physicists, chemists, and computer scientists. Our physical scientists and neuroscientists work together to enhance the temporal and spatial resolution of brain imaging technologies, to probe deeper and more precisely into the dynamic functioning of the living brain.

> Go to the BIC website
> See the latest BIC news

Molecular Imaging Center (MIC)

Image taken at MIC, by Carlos Pantoja, Isacoff Lab
Image taken at MIC, by Carlos Pantoja, Isacoff Lab

Ongoing advances in molecular genetics and the physics of imaging enable neuroscientists to use light to both visualize the dynamic activity of individual nerve cells and proteins in the living brain, and to control neural activity as a means of probing brain function. The MIC, led by Professor Ehud Isacoff, develops these optogenetic tools and provides an array of cutting-edge confocal and multiphoton microscopes for sophisticated imaging experiments. The MIC is used by neuroscientists, cell biologists, and molecular biologists from 40 labs to investigate topics such as molecular biophysics of single proteins, cell biology of neural development and signaling, and properties of neural circuits. The MIC provides training, systems management, and consultation on experiment design.

> Go to the MIC website

Redwood Center for Theoretical Neuroscience (RCTN)

Electrical signals are recorded from the hippocampus of a moving rat as it runs back and forth on a linear track. Scientists found that at each point of the track, specific patterns of electrical activity emerge. In this figure, the activity of each pattern is rendered in a different color. Together, these patterns define a 'map' of the environment that specifies the rat's current location.
Electrical signals are recorded from the hippocampus of a moving rat as it runs back and forth on a linear track. Scientists found that at each point of the track, specific patterns of electrical activity emerge. In this figure, the activity of each pattern is rendered in a different color. Together, these patterns define a ‘map’ of the environment that specifies the rat’s current location.

The past several decades have yielded a plethora of data regarding the structure and function of the brain, yet we are still lacking concrete theories for how information is processed by neurons so as to mediate basic abilities such as vision, hearing, language, memory, and motor control. Investigators at RCTN, led by Professor Bruno Olshausen, are attempting to bridge this gap by bringing their expertise in computer science, physics, mathematics, and engineering to bear on modeling the complex interactions that take place in neuronal circuits, as well as developing new computational tools for analyzing the high-dimensional datasets now arising from neuroscience experiments. Developing such models and tools is essential in order to design experiments and interpret findings in terms of a theory of neural function and ultimately, intelligent behavior. In addition to possessing a 36-node computing cluster, RCTN hosts the NSF-funded Datasharing Facility (crcns.org) where modelers can access data from experimental labs.

> Go to the RCTN website
> See the latest RCTN news