Kavli Institute for Neuroscience at Yale University
The Kavli Institute for Neuroscience at Yale University studies the neurobiological basis of human thought. Following a broad multidisciplinary strategy, it examines how the nerve cells and synaptic circuits of the cerebral cortex enable humans to learn about the outside world and to remember what they already have learned. Toward this end, it fosters discussion and innovative research among Yale neuroscientists from multiple disciplines, enabling them to contribute novel ideas and approaches in research on cortical evolution, development, organization and function.
Founded in 2004, the Institute is directed by 2008 Kavli Prize laureate Pasko Rakic, M.D., Ph.D. and vice-director David A. McCormick. It includes other Yale faculty members from disciplines such as neurobiology, cell biology, molecular physics and biochemistry, neurology, and developmental biology. Their research is focused on four themes:
- Development and evolution of the cerebral cortex. How does the circuitry that supports the highest cognitive functions develop in each individual? Institute scientists seek answers to this question, one of the most fundamental in biology, by using highly advanced approaches of molecular genetic and cell biology to explore developmental mechanisms that enable formation of the cerebral cortex.
- Cortical circuits underlying higher cognitive functions. The Institute is studying the functional architecture of the prefrontal cortex and the role this crucial circuitry plays in both normal and abnormal cognitive function. Of particular interest is working memory, which temporarily stores useful information during the performance of a sequence of tasks.
- Local cortical circuit operation and modulation. The cerebral cortex can be thought of as a sheet (2 to 3 mm thick) made up of many interactive microcircuits. The Institute studies how those local circuits work, and how they are affected by health and disease, as a route to understanding the operation of the cerebral cortex as a whole.
- Cellular biology of cortical neurons. The cerebral cortex performs its tasks through the operation and interaction of billions of neurons and synapses. The Institute seeks to understand important details about how these fundamental building blocks of human thought work – and how they communicate with one another.
In addition to its research initiatives, the Institute sponsors seminars featuring distinguished visiting speakers who share its mission of understanding cortical function in human thought. Through both its Yale-based activities and its collaborations with other institutions worldwide, the Kavli Institute for Neuroscience at Yale creates an intellectually vibrant environment for the study of the human brain.