Polina Anikeeva, 32
A creative scientist sees new ways to record and stimulate brain activity.
“For my PhD at MIT, I worked on quantum-dot LEDs, and having zero biological experience, I chose to spend two years in Karl Deisseroth’s neuroscience lab at Stanford. When I saw that they were developing methods to control the brain optically and investigate brain function, I was really blown away. [But] the tools we were using were too large and too bulky, and didn’t have enough capability. Since my background was nano–optoelectronics and nanofabrication, I felt that we should be able to do better. That became the foundation of my lab [at MIT].
The lab is divided into two main directions. One is using fiber fabrication to create neural probes that have multiple functions. The other is to figure out if we can interact with the nervous system in an essentially wireless and noninvasive way.
Ultimately, you want to figure out how specific patterns of neural activity correspond to specific behaviors. What we’re trying to do is push the resolution of our recording and stimulation capability, which will allow us to decipher those neural circuits. If you’re trying to, say, restore function after spinal-cord injury, if we were able to record signals from both sides [of the injury] and convert them into patterns of stimulation, we would be able to start building a synthetic bridge across that connection. Right now, we would love to work with people and get this technology into as many labs as we can.”
—as told to Courtney Humphries
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