Stelios Manolis Smirnakis
Associate Professor of Neurology
Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Jamaica Plain VA Hospital
Harvard Medical School
My main interest is the input-output function of pyramidal neurons in neocortex. I adopted the idea from lesion and focal brain inactivation studies to test how a pyramidal neuron in primary visual cortex integrates different dendritic inputs to compute visual information such as orientation selectivity and receptive field property. This allows us to causally test the role of apical and basal dendrite inputs to the visual stimulus selectivity of V1 neurons.
Dr. Zhaozhe Hao received her B.S in Biological Science in Nankai University, Tianjin, China, and her Ph.D. degree in Cellular and Behavioral Neurobiology from the University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK, US. She joined the Smirnakis Lab as a postdoctoral fellow to study the neuronal mechanism of Epilepsy.
Dr. Sangkyun Lee earned his Ph. D. degree and post-doc training in the field of human fMRI from International Max-Planck Research School, University of Tuebingen, Germany. Since then, he moved to Smirnakis Lab to study visual information processing in mouse visual cortex by using two-photon calcium imaging. His recent interest is to understand how neural ensembles encode visual information robustly despite of large fluctuations of neuronal activity and how the stimulus information is transmitted through columnar structures.
Dr. Ganna Palagina earned her Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Ruhr-University Bochum (Bochum, Germany). She is studying information processing in visual sensory and associative cortical areas using two-photon calcium imaging, analysis of eye movements and behavioral assays. Her interest is to discover the rules by which neural ensembles emerge and evolve during development, learning and under the conditions of perceptual multistability.
Dr. Yuan Gao received her B.Eng in Biomedical Engineering from Southeast University, China, and her Ph.D in Neuroscience from Case Western Reserve University. She had her postdoctoral training in the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and Boston University with a focus on studying the neural bases of sensory perception. As a research scientist in the Smirnakis Lab, Dr. Gao’s research goal is to understand the mechanism underlying motor learning at both cellular and system levels. In particular, her focus is to compare the functional connectivity in the primary motor cortex (M1) between wide type and MECP2-duplication syndrome mice.
Dr. Joseph Lombardo received his B.S. and M.S. in Biological Sciences and Molecular Biosciences from the University of Turin (2007 and 2009) and his Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the UCL School of Pharmacy (2013). He has recently joined the Smirnakis Lab as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow to study the cellular processes that lead cortical networks to generate seizures utilizing calcium imaging, optogenetics, electrophysiological techniques, and computational modeling.
Dr. Jochen Meyer’s primary research interests are centered around furthering our understanding of the underlying cortical cellular and network defects in diseases like epilepsy and autism. Currently I am studying generalized absence epilepsy as well as focal, injury-induced epilepsy using techniques such as two-photon imaging, in vivo patch-clamp recordings and EEG in mice. We use the stargazer mouse model to study absence epilepsy, a common childhood form of the disease (https://youtu.be/JiD5-0dJsy4). Open questions are what role the different cortical layers and cell types, especially inhibitory interneurons, play in the initiation and maintenance of seizures, and which elements of the cortical circuitry could be targeted for novel therapeutic interventions. This project is carried out in close collaboration with Dr. Atul Maheshwari and Dr. Jeff Noebels, Baylor College of Medicine. The focal epilepsy study is based on a toxin-induced brain injury model that generates epilepsy over time. In these animals we follow the same groups of neurons over several months using chronic cranial windows to correlate calcium activity from larger numbers of neurons with epileptogenesis on the
EEG. My broader interests, which are based in previous work, cover neuronal network function in the cortex in general, in particular in the visual system. Specifically, I am studying how the activity of single neurons in the visual cortex influences the activity of the local neighborhood (https://youtu.be/dTd6o8R7FGc). This study is carried out in collaboration with Dr. Peyman Golshani, UCLA.
Dr. Andriani Rina was engaged in research in the field of fMRI studies of colors perception in the past four years. More specific, my master’s thesis, under the supervision of Ass.Prof.rer.nat Georgios A. Keliris and Ass.Prof.Konstantinos Moutoussis, at Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics (Tuebingen, Germany) was about “the color processing and perception in the brain of normal trichromatic subjects, patients with chromatic deficiencies and total color blindness” (awarded as the best poster presentation at the 4th Panhellenic Conference in Cognitive Science, Athens, 2016). The results I get from this, formed the basis of a larger study on patients suffering from achromatopsia (ACHM, total color blindness), a stationary cone dystrophy in which there is an absence of functioning cone photoreceptors in the retina but normal rod responses. I was working in the first gene therapy study worldwide specifically aimed at totally color blind patients, under the supervision of Ass.Prof.rer.nat. Georgios A. Keliris and Prof.Dr.Dominik Fischer (at Max Planck Institute and at the Institute for Ophthalmic Research, Tuebingen, Germany) and I was responsible for performing the “fMRI measurements in the CNGA3-achromat patient”, analyzing and communicating the data. Following the completion of this project, I expect to receive my Ph.D.. In parallel, for a bit more than a year I was working as Data manager and researcher (recruiting subjects, running the experiments, analyzing the data, etc.) at the Institute of Medical Psychology & Behavioral Neurobiology (Tuebingen, Germany) on “Real-time fMRI on obese people”, as a part of the ‘Brain Train’ (EU) Project, under the supervision of Prof.Dr.Dr.hc.mult.Niels Birbaumer. I recently joined the lab of Prof.Stelios Smirnakis at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and we propose to perform “functional neuroimaging of cortical plasticity in the human visual system”. Here I will be responsible for recruiting and scanning patients and will analyze the data, mapping the visual areas and comparing subjects with lesions, with controls.