Neuroscience Research Areas
To advance our understanding of the underlying mechanisms of healthy brain function and neurological and psychological disease, Neuroscience Institute faculty at NYU Langone lead research projects in five broad, overlapping areas of neuroscience: cellular and molecular neuroscience, systems neuroscience, cognitive and behavioral neuroscience, computational neuroscience, and translational and clinical neuroscience.
Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
The basic units of the nervous system are exquisitely specialized cell types called neurons and glia. Neurons, with their extensive dendrites and axons, produce unique electrical events and use a complex, highly evolved system for communicating with one another. Glia are a diverse family of cells that perform a variety of supportive functions throughout the nervous system.
Cellular and molecular neuroscientists seek a thorough understanding of the fundamental processes within and among neurons and glia, which emerge from the interplay of a large number of signaling molecules, ion channels, and numerous other fine-tuned components. They identify new targets and pathways that play critical roles in basic and complex neural mechanisms, such as those that underlie learning and memory. These processes and components often are linked directly to neurological diseases and may prove to be clinically relevant targets for new drug treatments.
Our researchers use the most advanced techniques, such as two-photon microscopy, in vivo labeling of cell type–specific individual neurons, and microarray analyses, to investigate the development and function of both the intact and diseased brain at the cellular and molecular levels.
There are approximately 90 billion neurons in the human brain. Each neuron connects to many other neurons, and together, they work as a network to respond to information from the outside world, control movement, and perform myriad other complex functions.
Systems neuroscientists identify how neurons form networks; encode or decode information about the external world or our internal states; and ultimately give rise to a wide variety of behaviors, including sensory perception, motor control, memory, attention, and language. These complex functions are often affected in neurological and psychiatric disorders, underscoring the importance of understanding how they emerge from neuronal activity.
Our faculty explore the major systems within the nervous system, including visual and auditory senses, memory and emotions centers, and motor regions of the brain, in health and disease models.
Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience
The brain gives rise to our thoughts, behaviors, emotions, and sense of self. In a manner of speaking, it makes decisions, pays attention, learns, and holds onto our memories. Cognitive and behavioral neuroscientists reveal the neural substrates that underlie these mental processes and delve into how they are disrupted in neurological disorders.
Our scientists use advanced imaging techniques, such as functional MRI, in combination with behavioral assessments, neuromodulatory interventions, and computational modeling, to better understand how the brain uses information to produce memories, language, and mental processes.
The intricate biophysics of neurons and the complexity of neural systems both lend themselves to mathematical modeling and computer science approaches.
Computational models can be built at the cellular or network level to investigate what aspects are critical for neuronal function, communication, and, ultimately, behaviors. As in many areas of biology, the recent explosion of data from new, sophisticated research techniques also increases our need to improve the analysis and representation of data through computational means.
Computational neuroscientists advance our understanding of information processing in the brain and often work in tandem with experimental neuroscientists to continually refine their models.
Translational and Clinical Neuroscience
Translating basic research discoveries into clinical applications is a major challenge in all fields of biomedical science. In neuroscience, the need for new therapeutics to treat developmental, degenerative, psychiatric, and other types of disorders is particularly great.
Our translational neuroscientists examine how basic neuroscience findings relate to disease states, test theories of disease progression, and develop novel strategies for putative therapies. In parallel, our clinical neuroscientists, from specialties such as neurology, psychiatry, neurosurgery, radiology, otolaryngology—head and neck surgery, and anesthesiology, apply the most current approaches to provide top-of-the-line care to patients.
We also work closely with NYU Langone’s Therapeutics Alliances, Clinical and Translational Science Institute, and Clinical Research Support Unit to test and validate new drugs, devices, and treatments in order to improve patient outcomes.