Department News



(l to r) Jonny Kohl, Jeff Moore, Michal Rabani-Drier, and Benedicte Babyan

Congratulation to Johannes Kohl and Jeffrey Moore from the Catherine Dulac Lab, Benedicte Babayan from the Nao Uchida Lab at Harvard and the Sam Gershman Lab at MIT, and Michal Rabani-Drier from the Alex Schier Lab, who have all won fellowships in 2015. Their research attracted the attention of domestic and international fellowship committees, and covers a range of topics from neuroscience to embryogenesis.



About the Research

Johannes Kohl
Dulac LabHuman Frontier Science Program Long-Term Fellowship
Project title: Neural circuits underlying parental behavior
The aim of Kohl’s research program is to understand how neural circuits encode parental behavior. Parental behavior, aimed at the care and protection of the young, is essential for the survival of offspring in many animal species. However, the neural circuits underlying this behavior remain largely unstudied. Using the mouse as a model system, he will first trace the circuits controlling parental behavior and investigate their functional logic. Subsequently, he will test whether different brain areas control discrete aspects of parental behavior and how social experience modulates parenting behavior.

Jeffrey Moore
Dulac LabJane Coffins Child Fund for Memorial Research
Project title: Neuronal control of suckling behavior in newborn rodents
Moore’s research investigates the neural circuits that control instinctive behavior. Previously, his work focused on innate active sensing behaviors that constitute the predominant activities of rodents during exploration and social interactions. Key questions that emerged from this work involve the nature of the motivational and descending drives that enable animals to generate robust and instinctive motor patterns in the appropriate context. With the expertise of the Dulac Laboratory, he hopes to provide insight into these questions by defining the roles of specific, molecularly-defined cell types and neuronal circuit connectivity patterns that relate to such control. He hopes to provide a unique perspective that stems from a background in engineering and the neural control of movement.

Benedicte Babayan
Nao Uchida and Sam Gershman LabsFrench Medical Research Foundation
Project title: Neural circuits for state inference in reinforcement learning
This fellowship supports her first year of postdoctoral work, during which she will aim to study decision-making under uncertainty. Decision-making is ubiquitous, and the ability to develop knowledge about one’s environment from experience and use this knowledge to produce optimal actions is essential for survival. However, we often have to make decisions with incomplete knowledge about our environment. In such situations of uncertainty, inference is required to estimate the current state and select actions accordingly. The neural processes underlying such hidden state inference remain poorly understood. Babayan’s project aims to elucidate neural circuit level understanding of how inference is made from partial information, and how it drives behavior and the activity of dopamine neurons. She intends to address these questions through an interdisciplinary approach combining neurophysiology in behaving mice and computational neuroscience.

Michal Rabani-Drier
Alex Schier LabHelen Hay Whitney Foundation Fellowship
Project title: Post-transcriptional regulation during early development
At the onset of development, transcriptionally silent embryos solely depend on the post-transcriptional control of maternally provided mRNAs, but how they regulate the fate of these messages is still poorly understood. Transcriptional silencing makes early embryos an ideal model system to study post-transcriptional regulation and uncover its basic concepts. In this project, Rabani-Drier will develop novel high throughput genomic approaches and computational modeling to study the post-transcriptional control mechanisms of early zebrafish embryogenesis, and to understand basic principles of mRNA regulation that are also applicable across many systems.