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2006

Researchers Create DNA Logic Circuits That Work in Test Tubes In the current issue of the journal Science, a Caltech group led by computer scientist Erik Winfree reports that they have created DNA logic circuits that work in salt water, similar to an intracellular environment. Such circuits could lead to a biochemical microcontroller, of sorts, for biological cells and other complex chemical systems. The lead author of the paper is Georg Seelig, a postdoctoral scholar in Winfree's lab. View press release... 12-07-2006

Christof Koch, Caltech's Troendle Professor of Cognitive and Behavioral Biology and professor of computation and neural systems, is featured in the October 23 issue of U. S. News & World Report. The special report, "Is There Room for the Soul? New Challenges to Our Most Cherished Beliefs About Self and the Human Spirit," examines various theories about the nature of consciousness and the human species. The article discusses Koch's work with the late Francis Crick on the biological basis and neural correlates of consciousness. For the complete article, go to www.usnews.com. 10-15-2006

Caltech Researchers Announce Invention of the Optofluidic Microscope The old optical microscopes that everyone used in high-school biology class may be a step closer to the glass heap. Researchers at the California Institute of Technology have announced their invention of an optofluidic microscope that uses no lens elements and could revolutionize the diagnosis of certain diseases such as malaria. The new optofluidic microscope is one of the first major accomplishments to come out of Caltech's Center for Optofluidic Integration, which was begun in 2004 with funding from the federal Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for development of a new generation of small-scale, highly adaptable, and innovative optical devices. Demetri Psaltis, who is the Myers Professor of Electrical Engineering at Caltech and a coauthor of the paper. "This is probably the most important result so far showing how we can build very unique devices that can have a broad impact." View press release... 09-05-2006

McDonnell Foundation Grant Will Be Used to Study Neurons Involved in Snap Decisions Where do you get your "gut feelings," that intuition that leads you to distrust someone who appears trustworthy? It could be your Von Economo brain cells in action, and a neurobiologist at the California Institute of Technology intends to find out for sure. John Allman, the Hixon Professor of Neurobiology, has received a $1.8 million grant from the James S. McDonnell Foundation to study the Von Economo neuron. The funding will allow Allman and his colleagues to perform a wide variety of research on the specialized neurons. The work could lead to new insights into the nature and treatment of various psychiatric disorders. View press release... 04-13-2006

Caltech Wins Three MURI Awards for 2006 The California Institute of Technology has been awarded three of the 30 program awards from the federal Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) Program. The awards will bring in $3 million in funding each year for the next five years. The principal investigators for the three programs, respectively, are Guruswami Ravichandran, who is the Goode Jr. Professor of Aeronautics and Mechanical Engineering at Caltech, for "mechanics and mechanisms of impulse loading"; Pietro Perona, a professor of electrical engineering, for "learning to recognize for visual surveillance"; and Richard Murray, a professor of control and dynamical systems, for "specification, design, and verification of distributed embedded systems." View press release... 02-24-2006

Caltech Launches Brain Study Program with $8.9 Million Gift from Eli Broad to Fund 24 Researchers and Six New Labs For years, scientists have worked to study each of the 100 billion neurons in the human brain. But while they understand individual neurons, they've been stumped by how neurons work together, how they encode information, and how they generate thoughts, emotions, and actions. "We have no idea how these neurons are assembled in groups of 50 to 100,000 to generate conscious thoughts," said Christof Koch, Troendle Professor of Cognitive and Behavioral Biology and Professor of Computation and Neural Systems at Caltech, who will serve as director of the Broad Fellows Program. View press release... 02-02-2006

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2005

Caltech Faculty Member Receives McKnight Neuroscience Award to Study Memory Formation Ultimately finding solutions to these complex problems is the mission of Athanassios Siapas, assistant professor of computation and neural systems at the California Institute of Technology. Siapas has received a McKnight Scholar Award to support his work in "Cortico-Hippocampal Interactions and Memory Formation." This award, granted by the McKnight Endowment Fund for Neuroscience, is given for innovative research in neuroscience as it pertains to memory and, ultimately, to a clearer understanding and treatment of diseases affecting memory. Siapas will receive a grant of $225,000 over the next three years. View press release... 11-22-2005

Authority on the Brains and Behavior of Owls and Songbirds Wins Neuroscience Prize Masakazu "Mark" Konishi, a California Institute of Technology neuroscientist renowned for his work on the neural wiring that allows owls to swoop in on their prey in darkness and songbirds to sing, and his former postdoctoral researcher Eric Knudsen, who is now chair of the neurobiology department at Stanford University, have been awarded this year's Peter Gruber Foundation Neuroscience Prize. Konishi, who is the Bing Professor of Behavioral Biology at Caltech, and Knudsen received the prize for their work on the brain mechanisms of sound localization in barn owls, which Konishi has worked on since the mid-1970s. The two will receive an unrestricted cash prize of $200,000, a gold medal, and a citation for their contributions to neuroscience. The award was established in 2004 and is given each year to "to honor the most distinguished work in the field of the brain, nervous system and the spinal cord." View press release... 07-20-2005

Scientists Use fMRI to Catch Test Subjects in the Act of Trusting One Another Who do you trust? The question may seem distinctly human--and limited only to "quality" humans, at that--but it turns out that trust is handled by the human brain in pretty much the same way that obtaining a food award is handled by the brain of an insect. In other words, it's all a lot more primitive than we think. In a new milestone for neuroscience, experimenters at the California Institute of Technology and the Baylor College of Medicine for the first time have simultaneously scanned interacting brains using a new technique called "hyperscanning" brain imaging to probe how trust builds as subjects learn about one another. This new technique allowed the team to see for the first time how interacting brains influence each other as subjects played an economic game and built trusting relationships. The research has implications for further understanding the evolution of the brain and social behavior, and could also lead to new insights into maladies such as autism and schizophrenia, in which a person's interaction with others is severely compromised. Steve Quartz, associate professor of philosophy and director of the Social Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory at Caltech, led the Caltech effort. View press release... 03-31-2005

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2004

Koch Elected to American Academy Christof Koch, Troendle Professor of Cognitive and Behavioral Biology, professor of computation and neural systems, and executive officer for neurobiology, has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. 11-08-2004

2003

National Medal of Technology awarded by President Bush to Caltech's Carver Mead Carver Mead, a renowned inventor and longtime faculty member of the California Institute of Technology, has been named by President George W. Bush as a recipient of the National Medal of Technology. The announcement was made by the White House today. View press release... 10-22-2003

Caltech Professor Receives Award for Research into Mechanisms of Memory Formation How do we form short-term and long-term memories in the brain? A California Institute of Technology professor will try to answer this question and others. Athanassios Siapas, assistant professor of computation and neural systems, has been awarded a $445,120 grant by the James S. McDonnell Foundation for his project "Network Mechanisms of Memory Formation.". View press release... 03-01-2003

 

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