Neurobiology Program

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Read about these research projects on our Stories Page.

Neurobiology at a glance

Neurobiology research at Children's Hospital Boston spans multiple departments and disciplines, integrating basic studies of the nervous system with translational and clinical research endeavors.

Researchers in the F.M. Kirby Neurobiology Center and many clinical departments housed in the Brain Center are investigating key processes in nervous system development, function and repair, with the primary goal of applying this knowledge to disorders of the nervous system that affect children. Much of their work is carried out in conjunction with the Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Center (IDDRC) at Children's, funded by the National Institutes of Health.

The F.M. Kirby Neurobiology Center, located in the Center for Life Science building, studies fundamental aspects of function and malfunction in the nervous system, how the system develops, and its plasticity and responses to injury--using genetics, stem cells, molecular and cell biology, neurochemistry, electrophysiology, imaging and behavioral methods. Many of its faculty are also members of the departments ofNeurology or Neurosurgery. Neurosurgery research focuses on the basic mechanisms of common neurosurgical conditions, such as trauma to the brain and spinal cord, brain tumors and conditions affecting nervous system vasculature.

The vibrant neurobiology community at Children's also includes researchers in several other departments and multidisciplinary programs. Major collaborations are ongoing with:

There are also important collaborations with researchers in CardiologyPathologyOphthalmology and the Stem Cell Program.


Our Centers

Neurobiology investigators at Children's Hospital Boston are part of the F.M. Kirby Neurobiology Center, the departments of Neurology and Neurosurgery and the Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Center (IDDRC), funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Additional neurobiology research takes place in collaborating departments and multidisciplinary programs throughout Children's, including:

Division of Genetics/Program in Genomics
Developmental Medicine
Informatics Program
Stem Cell Program


Our Faculty

Michael Rivkin
Irina Anselm Neurometabolic diseases and general neurology, Mitochondrial disorders
Lino Becerra Neuroradiology
David Bellinger Central nervous system toxicity
Larry Benowitz Brain rewiring after injury
David Borsook Neuroradiology
William Bosl Clinical neuroinformatics, pediatric cognitive disorders, autism, neurotechnology for global mental health
Michelle Bosquet Enlow Infant emotional and biological development
Chinfei Chen Synaptic plasticity
David Clapham Electrophysiology
Kathryn Commons Central serotonin neurobiology
Gabriel Corfas Neuron-glia interactions: their mechanisms and their roles in development and disease
Michael Costigan Pain and regeneration
Basil Darras Neuromuscular disorders, including muscular dystrophy and spinal muscular atrophy
David DeMaso Relationship of physical health/mental health
Michael Do Regulation of physiology and behavior by light
Elizabeth Engle Congenital eye movement disorders
Michela Fagiolini Experience-dependent visual plasticity; neurodevelopmental disorders, including Rett syndrome
Nadine Gaab Human auditory system; reading and language impairments
Gwenaelle Geleoc

Functional development of sensory hair cells in the inner ear

Ali Gholipour Medical image processing
Eugene Goldfield Sensorimotor control in infants, including swallowing difficulties and mobility in premature infants; development of medical devices
Ellen Grant Pediatric MRI systems, MRI processing tools
Xi He Cell-cell communication; early nervous system development; Wnt family of secreted morphogens and signaling; cancer, skeletal and neurological diseases
Zhigang He Axon regeneration
Gena Heidary Ophthalmology
Max Heiman Neuronal shape and wiring in C. elegans
Takao Hensch Critical periods in brain development and disease
Jeffrey Holt

Molecular basis of sensory signals in hearing and deafness

Laurie Jackson-Grusby Epigenetic control mechanisms, cancer stem cells
Peter Kang Genetics of muscular dystrophy and other neuromuscular disorders
Hannah Kinney Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
Daniel Kohane Pain; peritoneal and other adhesions; intracranial drug delivery; microfluidics; tissue engineering
Sanjeev Kothare Pediatric sleep disorders, Links between sleep and epilepsy
Gabriel Kreiman Computations in the brain and the functional architecture of neuronal circuits
Louis Kunkel Muscular dystrophy
Carole Landisman Electrical and chemical signaling in the thalamus and cortex
Maria Lehtinen The brain-CSF interface: Neural stem cells and disease
Alan Leviton Epidemiology of brain damage in preterm newborns
Joseph Madsen Hydrocephalus, epilepsy, brain biomechanics, robotics
Joseph Majzoub Neuroendocrinology
Robert Mulkern Magnetic resonance (MR) imaging spectroscopy
Charles A Nelson Developmental medicine, cognitive neuroscience
Darren Orbach Cerebral electromagnetic activity, encephalographic functional magnetic resonance imaging (efMRI)
Michael Paldino Neuroradiology
Xianhua Piao Molecular basis of brain development and malformation
Tina Young Poussaint Neuroimaging
Scott Pomeroy Molecular and cellular biology of brain tumors
Cognitive disorders and brain development
Paul Rosenberg Physiology and pathophysiology of glutamate transporters in the central nervous system; molecular mechanisms of brain injury; mechanisms of homeostatic sleep regulation
Alexander Rotenberg Traumatic brain injury, epilepsy, non-invasive brain stimulation
Mustafa Sahin Axon development and neurological disease
Thomas Schwarz Neurotransmitter secretion, membrane trafficking, synapse development, axonal transport, Parkinson's disease
Michael Scott Moyamoya syndrome
Yang Shi Epigenetic mechanisms
Edward Smith Brain tumors, including pituitary tumors; cerebrovascular disease, including Moyamoya syndrome and arteriovenous malformations; skull base lesions
Janet Soul Causes and prevention of brain injury in newborns
Hanno Steen Proteomics
Judith Steen Synaptic plasticity, spinal muscular atrophy, mass spectrometry-based proteomics and computation
Beth Stevens Neuron-glia signaling; synapse development and plasticity
Ralph Suarez Mapping brain systems with fMRI and DTI imaging, particularly in context of disease-induced cognitive impairment
Joseph Volpe Brain injury in premature infants
Christopher Walsh Genetics of brain development; structural brain malformations
Benjamin Warf Chiari malformation, congenital malformations, hydrocephalus, spina bifida, ventriculoscopy/endoscopy
Simon Warfield Medical image analysis
Clifford Woolf Pain; formation of neural circuits; regeneration

Our Trainees

Children's Hospital Boston provides an exciting training program in neuroscience for undergraduate students through Harvard University and graduate and medical students, as well as postdoctoral research fellows, through Harvard Medical School. We also partner with the Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology (HST) Program. The Program, under the leadership of Thomas Schwarz, PhD, has a prestigious Institutional National Research Service Award from the National Institutes of Health, which funds four postdoctoral fellows each year.

For more information, also visit these sites:

The Center for Brain Science at Harvard University
Harvard PhD Program in Neuroscience
Harvard PhD Program in Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Harvard University Office for Postdoctoral Affairs
Children's Hospital Boston Office of Fellowship Training


Our Facilities

Neurobiology investigators at Children's Hospital Boston have access to a vast array of state-of-the-art equipment and core facilities. To learn more, visit these sites:

Cores of the Children's Hospital Boston IDDRC
The Proteomics Center at Children's Hospital Boston
Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience (Division of Developmental Medicine)


Our Seminars

A joint Children's/Harvard Neurobiology Seminar Series takes place most Mondays at 12:15 pm in the Folkman Auditorium (Enders Building).

Upcoming speakers:

4/1/13   Loren Frank, PhD  University of California, San Francisco

4/8/13   Anirvan Ghosh, PhD  University of California, San Diego

4/15/13 Massimo Scanziani, PhD  University of California, San Diego

4/22/13  Susumu Tomita, PhD  Yale University

4/29/13  Bence Olveczky, PhD  Harvard University

5/6/13   Gordon Fishell, PhD  New York University School of Medicine

5/13/13  Anatol Kreitzer, PhD  University of California, San Francisco

6/10/13  Dwight Bergles, PhD  Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine 

Neuroscience talks also occur at the Cambridge campus of Harvard University, MIT, McLean Hospital and other locations.  Click here for a list of local neuroscience talks compiled by the Program in Neuroscience at Harvard Medical School.


Our Stories

A prismatic research approach sheds light on the biology of autism spectrum disorders
In one laboratory, nerve cells in a plastic dish glow green and red under a microscope, revealing their shapes and the locations of specific molecules. In another laboratory, mice that have grown up in the dark... [click to read more]
Fruit flies aid in the hunt for human pain genes
Ever wonder why some people are less sensitive to pain than others? It's not simply that they're brave, and the rest of us are wimps... [click to read more]
Clinical trials for genetic disorders linked to autism take aim at symptoms previously considered irreversible
Six-year-old Ryan is an expert chef. He especially likes cooking turkey in the toy microwave in the playroom of Children's Hospital Boston's Clinical and Translational Study Unit... [click to read more]
Proteomics and bioinformatics help identify elusive drug targets
Too much junk building up in your Inbox? Just like you might go through your thousands of messages and flag the ones to delete, your cells have a system for sorting through their thousands of proteins and marking the ones to trash... [click to read more]
"Supporting" cells drive the formation of neural connections
Glial cells are the Cinderellas of neuroscience. Although their beautiful variety and structural intricacy were noted over a century ago by Nobel laureate Ramon y Cajal, these abundant nervous system cells were until recently cast into the shadows... [click to read more]
A rare disorder sheds light on how our brains are wired up
A gene whose mutation leads to droopy eyelids and restricted eye movement turns out to have a lot to do with how the nervous system as a whole establishes and maintains nerve connections. And it works in an unusual way... [visit the Genetics/Genomics site to read more]
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