At the MIT Media Lab, Ed Boyden leads the Synthetic Neurobiology Group, which invents technologies to reveal how cognition and emotion arise from brain networks -- and to enable systematic repair of disorders such as epilepsy and PTSD.
Working with an extraordinary array of tools -- from 3-D printers to lasers to flasks of algae -- Ed Boyden is creating new brains. A pioneer in the field of optogenetics, he is the founder and principal investigator of the synthetic neurobiology group at MIT.
Using a combination of lasers and genetic engineering, he implants brains with optical fibers that allow him to activate special proteins in specific neurons and see their connections. In addition to helping create detailed maps of brain circuitry, the engineering of these cells has been used to cure blindness in mice, and could point the way to cures for Parkinsons or Alzheimers, or to ways of connecting to the brain via prosthetics.
"Boyden was borrowing genes from the algae he was holding in the green flask. If he succeeds, people will become part machine, and part algae too."Carl Zimmer, Scientific American