Our Team

The Halassa Lab studies how the brain filters information during sleep and attention.

Principal Investigator

Michael Halassa

Michael Halassa

Principal Investigator

Michael Halassa is a neuroscientist who aims to understand the basic circuit mechanisms of how information is routed in the brain and how disruptions in these circuits can lead to neurological and psychiatric disorders. As a practicing psychiatrist he aims to develop novel approaches to diagnosing and treating these illnesses guided by insights both from the lab and clinic. View Dr. Halassa’s CV Here.

Research Scientists

Ralf Wimmer

Ralf Wimmer

Research Scientist

Ralf is working on a number of projects related to cognitive control and flexibility. He develops specific tasks geared towards isolating specific cognitive processes, as well as specific perturbations in disease. Ralf can be reached at Here.

Publications

Wells, M.F.*, Wimmer, R.D.*, Schmitt, L.I., Feng, G., Halassa, M.M., Thalamic reticular impairment underlies attention deficit in Ptchd1Y/- mice.  Nature (2016) doi: 10.1038/nature17427.

Chen, Z., Wimmer, R.D., Wilson, M.A., Halassa, M.M., Thalamic circuit mechanisms link sensory processing in sleep and attention. Front. Neural Circuits, 9:83 (2015).

Wimmer, R.D.*, Schmitt, L.I.*, Davidson, T.J., Nakajima, M., Deisseroth, K., Halassa, M.M., Thalamic control of sensory selection in divided attention. Nature, 526: 705–709 (2015), DOI: 10.1038/nature15398.

Schmitt, L.I., Wimmer, R.D., Astrocytic Regulation of Sleep Processes. Curr Sleep Medicine Rep (2015) 1:9–19, doi: 10.1007/s40675-014-0005-5

Halassa MM, Chen Z, Wimmer RD, Brunetti PM, Zhao S, Zikopoulos B, Wang F, Brown EN, Wilson MA. (2014) “State-dependent architecture of thalamic reticular subnetworks.” Cell, 158(4):808-21.

Brunetti PM*, Wimmer RD*, Liang L, Siegle JH, Voigts J, Wilson M, Halassa MM. (2014) “Design and fabrication of ultralight weight, adjustable multi-electrode probes for electrophysiological recordings in mice.” J Vis Exp. (91):e516

Astori S, Wimmer RD, Lüthi A. (2013) “Manipulating sleep spindles – Expanding views on sleep, memory and disease.” Trends Neurosci, 36(12):738-48

Wimmer RD, Astori S, Bond C, Rovó Z, Chatton J-Y, Adelman JP, Franken P, Lüthi A. (2012) “Sustaining sleep spindles through enhanced SK2 channel activity consolidates sleep and elevates arousal threshold.” J Neurosci, 32(40):13917-28.

Astori S, Wimmer RD, Prosser HM, Corti C, Corsi M, Liaudet N, Volterra A, Franken P, Adelman JP, Lüthi A. (2011) “The CaV3.3 calcium channel is the major sleep spindle pacemaker in thalamus.” Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 108(33):13823-8.

Reyes-Castro LA, Rodriguez JS, Rodríguez-González GL, Wimmer RD, McDonald TJ, Larrea F, Nathanielsz PW, Zambrano E. “Pre- and/or postnatal protein restriction in rats impairs learning and motivation in male offspring.” (2011) Int J Dev Neurosci. 29(2):177-82.

Cerbulo-Vazquez A, Zavala M, Perez-Palacios GA, Jenkins SL, Giavedoni LD, Hodara VL, Romero R, Wimmer RD, Irles C, Nathanielsz PW. (2010) “Baboon fetal arterial endothelial cells are more responsive to challenge by tumor necrosis factor α (TNF-α) than baboon fetal umbilical vein endothelial cells.” Atherosclerosis. 212(2):701-3.

* Authors contributed equally

Trainees

Ian Schmitt

Ian Schmitt

Postdoctoral Fellow, NARSAD Young Investigator

Ian completed his PhD in the laboratory of Professor Philip G. Haydon where he performed field recordings and amperometric biosensor based measurements in acute slices. During his graduate studies, Ian employed these techniques to establish that astrocytic glia release adenosine in response to wakefulness and that regulation of synaptic transmission by this molecule may affect memory function by modulating synaptic transmission and plasticity within the hippocampus.

Publications

Schmitt, LI. Sims, RE., Dale, N., Haydon, PG. (2012). Wakefulness Affects Synaptic and Network Activity by Increasing Extracellular Astrocyte-Derived Adenosine. Journal of Neuroscience, 32(13), 4417-4425. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5689-11.2012. PMID:   22457491

Hines, DJ. Schmitt, LI., Hines R.M. Moss, SJ. Haydon, PG. (2013). Antidepressant Effects of Sleep Deprivation Require Astrocyte-Dependent Adenosine Mediated Signaling.  Translational Psychiatry. 3:e212. doi: 10.1038/tp.2012.136. PMID:   23321809

Clasadonte, J*. McIver, SR*. Schmitt, LI*. (2013) Chronic Sleep Restriction Disrupts Sleep Homeostasis and Behavioral Sensitivity to Alcohol by Reducing the Extracellular Accumulation of Adenosine. Journal of Neuroscience, 34(5): 1879-1891. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2870-12.2014. PMID: 24478367

Min D. Tang-Schomer, James White, Lee W. Tien, L. Ian Schmitt, Thomas Valentin, Daniel Graziano, Amy Hopkins, Fiorenzo G. Omenetto, Philip G. Haydon, and David L. Kaplan. (In Press) Bioengineered functional brain-like cortical tissue. PNAS.

 Miho Nakajima

Miho Nakajima

Postdoctoral Fellow, JSPS Fellow

Miho completed her PhD in the laboratory of Professor Nathaniel Heintz at the Rockefeller University, where she performed gene/functional profiling of specific cortical interneuron cell types using BAC transgenesis method. During her graduate studies, Miho employed these techniques and discovered a new class of cortical interneuron subtype which has oxytocin/brain state dependent function during female socio-sexual behavior. Contact Miho Here.

Publications

Nakajima M, Gorlich A, and Heintz N (2014) “Oxytocin Modulates Female Sociosexual Behavior through a specific Class of Prefrontal Cortical Interneurons”, Cell, 159, (2): 295-305

Dougherty JD, Schmidt EF, Nakajima M, and Heintz N (2010) “Analytical approaches to RNA profiling data for the identification of genes enriched in specific cells.” Nucleic Acids Research, 38(13):4218-30

Nakatani H, Serizawa S, Nakajima M, Imai T, and Sakano H (2003) “Developmental elimination of ectopic projection sites for the transgenic OR gene that has lost zone specificity in the olfactory epithelium.”European Journal of Neuroscience, 18(9):2425-32

Miyoshi G., Young A., Petros T., Karayannis T., McKenzie Chang M., Lavado A., Iwano T., Nakajima M., Taniguchi H., Huang ZJ., Heintz N., Oliver G., Matsuzaki F., Machold RP., Fishell G., Prox1 regulates the subtype-specific development of caudal ganglionic eminence-derived GABAergic cortical interneurons. J Neurosci., 35(37):12869-89 (2015) DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1164-15.2015

Wimmer, R.D.*, Schmitt, L.I.*, Davidson, T.J., Nakajima, M., Deisseroth, K., Halassa, M.M., Thalamic control of sensory selection in divided attention. Nature, 526: 705–709 (2015), DOI: 10.1038/nature15398.

Rajeev Rikhye

Rajeev Rikhye

Postdoctoral Fellow

Rajeev grew up in sunny, tropical Singapore. He received his undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering with a focus on applied mathematics from Imperial College London, UK. After a brief stint with Dr. Terrence Sejnowski at the Salk Institute in San Diego, where he developed computational models for simulating calcium dynamics in dendritic spines, he moved to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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He completed his PhD in systems neuroscience under the supervision of Prof. Mriganka Sur, where he used new all-optical circuit interrogation techniques, and novel behavioral paradigms to elucidate how neural circuits in mouse visual cortex support visual perception. Keen on further understanding the neural circuits involved in decision making and perception, Rajeev joined the Halassa Lab in 2017. He is currently spearheading efforts to elucidate the thalamocortical computations underlying context-invariant rule representation in the cortex.

Jointly reduced inhibition and excitation underlies circuit-wide changes in cortical processing in Rett syndrome.
Banerjee A, Rikhye RV, Breton-Provencher V, Tang X, Li C, Li K, Runyan CA, Fu Z, Jaenisch R, Sur M.
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2016 Nov 15;113(46):E7287-E7296. Epub 2016 Nov 1.

Spatial Correlations in Natural Scenes Modulate Response Reliability in Mouse Visual Cortex.
Rikhye RV, Sur M. J Neurosci. 2015 Oct 28;35(43):14661-80. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1660-15.2015.

Staff

Stefan Oline

Stefan Oline

Lab Manager and Lead Technical Assistant

Navdeep Bajwa

Navdeep Bajwa

Lab Technician

Christine Yu

Christine Yu

Lab Technician

Melissa Garcia

Melissa Garcia

Lab Technician

 

Alumni

Danny Liang
Undergraduate summer intern: 2014, 2015
Next position: Medical student University of Toronto

 

Anmolpreet Kandola
High school summer intern: 2015
Next position: Undergraduate student at Columbia University

Jaison Jain
High school summer intern: 2015
Next position: Undergraduate student at Brown University

Gabriel Levine
Undergraduate summer intern: 2015
Next position: Undergraduate student at University of Chicago

Jie-Yoon Yang
Research Assistant: 2014-2015
Next position: graduate student at Caltech

Philip Brunetti
Research assistant: 2012-2014
Next position: Medical student at Louisiana State University

Justin Kirk
Research Assistant: 2016, 2017
Next position: Skillmill NYC

Giulio Spagnol
Visiting Student: 2017
Next position: Graduate student at Oxford University

Michael Happ
Research Assistant: 2017
Next position: Graduate student at MIT

Guang Chen
Postdoctoral Fellow: 2017

Olivier Gschwend
Postdoctoral Fellow, SNSF Fellow

Nóra Hádinger
Postdoctoral Fellow

Sima Mofakham
Postdoctoral Fellow