Funded Projects

Funded research
Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute
Dissecting curious exploration with self-supervised machine learning

What are the principles that guide curiosity-based exploration? What is the neural circuitry that implements curiosity? How can insights related to the phenomenon of curiosity improve the education and capabilities of humans and artificially intelligent agents? To address these questions, Isaac Kauvar will take an interdisciplinary approach — positioned at the intersection of computer science, neuroscience, and psychology.

Funded research
Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute
Genetic access of cell types using viral vectors

Multicellular organisms consist of numerous cell types with specialized biological functions. To understand such complex biological systems, genetic access to each cell type is needed for functional analysis and manipulations.

Funded research
Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute
Mechanisms of myelin membrane expansion

Myelin is the protective covering that surrounds nerve fibers to accelerate communication between different parts of the nervous system. Damage to myelin occurs in diseases such as multiple sclerosis, which compromises nerve signaling and impairs motor and cognitive function.

Funded research
Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute
The wearable ENG: a dizzy attack event monitor, Dizzy DX - Renewal
Recurrent dizziness attacks are a debilitating condition for 10% of the population during their lifetime, and can lead to a complete inability to function, and to multiple hospital admissions and investigations chasing many potential diagnoses. This project aims to address the unmet need for means of tracking patients' specific symptoms, so that correct treatments can be identified that will improve patients' function and quality of life.
Funded research
Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute
Optimization of the African killifish platform for rapid drug screening for aggregate based neurodegenerative diseases
There are currently no available drugs for neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease. Using the power of a new vertebrate aging model, the African killifish, this team is investigating age-dependent protein aggregation at a systems level and identifying aggregating proteins in the aging brain. There is huge potential to optimize the killifish platform for phenotypic screening of drug libraries, notably those targeted at protein aggregation, which is central to neurodegenerative diseases.
Funded research
Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute
Rapid and automated educational assessment through the web browser
This proposal seeks to translate new technology developed in the Brain Development & Education Lab into an automated reading ability assessment tool that would be widely distributed to schools, clinics and research labs through a sustainable non-profit model.
Funded research
Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute
Remote reliable measurements of movement using a Bluetooth enabled engineered keyboard solve an unmet need in neurological diseases

This team is developing a device that will enable accurate diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease via telemedicine. They initially introduced the technology of Quantitative DigitoGraphy (QDG) using a repetitive alternating finger tapping (RAFT) task on a musical instrument digital interface (MIDI) keyboard and will use Neuroscience: Translate funding for the next stage of device development.

Funded research
Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute
Extracochlear neurostimulation - Auricle

Sensorineural hearing loss is an increasingly prevalent condition that causes disability to over a third of US adults aged over 65. We are developing a breakthrough device to restore high-frequency hearing that preserves residual hearing through a reversible and minimally invasive approach.

Funded research
Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute
A minimally-invasive intracranial pressure microsensor (mICP) for long-term, continuous ambulatory monitoring
The limited available treatments (e.g., radiation, chemotherapy) for glioblastoma (GBM) can lead to swelling in the brain that causes elevated intracranial pressure (ICP), the timing of which is unpredictable; this results in the patient presenting to the emergency room with headaches, vomiting, or seizures, which leads to worsened quality of life and survival outcomes. We propose the refinement and pre-clinical validation of a pressure-sensing microfluidic ICP microsensor (mICP) that could be implanted in patients with GBM to detect elevated ICP early on.
Funded research
Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute
Stanford Brain Organogenesis Program (Phase 2)

Developing brain organoids and assembloids – three dimensional brain tissues grown in the lab – to study human brain development, evolution and neuropsychiatric disorders.

Funded research
Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute
Neuro-Omics Initiative (Phase 2)

Creating new tools to help neuroscientists bridge the study of genes and proteins operating in the brain to the study of brain circuits and systems, which could lead to a deeper understanding of brain function and disease.

Funded research
Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute
Neurodevelopment Initiative

Elucidating the development of the infant’s brain structure & function.

Funded research
Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute
NeuroPlant Initiative

The NeuroPlant Initiative aims to leverage a botanical armamentarium to manipulate the brain — by building a pipeline to explore chemicals synthesized in plants as potential new treatments for neurological disease and as a window into the chemistry of the brain.

Funded research
Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute
Elucidating mechanisms of microglial tiling

In a process called tiling, homeostatic microglia homogenously organize in a grid-like fashion to achieve efficient surveillance of the brain. The molecular mechanisms underlying tiling are unknown. I hypothesize that microglia use cell-surface proteins to sense density of neighboring microglia, thereby contributing to constant cell-to-cell distances.

Funded research
Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute
Inference via Abstraction: A framework for efficient Bayesian cognition

We propose a novel framework for efficient Bayesian cognition called Inference via Abstraction (IvA), which learns to approximate complex world models with simpler abstractions that capture main dependencies, but leverage structure in the prior distribution for efficient inference. We instantiate IvA with a combination of probabilistic graphical models and deep neural networks.

Funded research
Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute
Design and development of a high-performance intra-cortical speech BCI

Many neurological injuries and diseases such as brainstem stroke and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) result in severe speech impairment, drastically reducing quality of life. Recent progress in brain-computer interfaces (BCI) has allowed these individuals to communicate, but performance is still far lower than typical spoken conversation speeds.

Funded research
Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute
Mapping the Mitophagy Network in Parkinson’s Disease

We will comprehensively define the gene network associated with mitochondrial dysfunction in Parkinson's disease using a cutting-edge technology, CRISPR, to understand how these nerve cells die in PD and how we can reverse the cell death to treat the disease.

Funded research
Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute
Magnetic Recording and Stimulation of Neural Tissue

We propose a new magnetic sensor that is sensitive to picoTesla-scale fields, a localized magnetic stimulator with small form-factor, and a seamless integration of both systems for applications in experimental and clinical neuroscience.

Funded research
Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute
Inflammation, Major Histocompatibility Class I and human brain development

Maternal infection is linked to increased risk of neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism and schizophrenia. This proposal examines how virus-associated cytokines, specifically interferons, affect human neurons modeled in brain organoids or studied directly in fetal brain samples.