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Adult Courses

Sackler Brain Bench One-day University: Illuminating the Brain

October 18, 2014

Functional MRI

In this functional MRI image, the brain is engaged in a decision-making task. The areas shaded yellow to red represent the highest brain activity and the areas shaded blue to green, the lowest brain activity. Taken during a neurosurgical procedure, the three white lines slightly above the brain represent three individual neurons whose activity was recorded during the procedure. 

Your brain contains a web of billions of neurons, linked together through more connections than there are stars in our galaxy. How does this complex network enable us to talk, feel, and breathe? How do scientists use imaging technologies to unravel this vast complexity, and what promises do future technologies hold? Modern brain research and treatment have flourished through the use of high-resolution temporal and spatial neuroimaging methods. These informative and often beautiful images hold clues to the elusive inner workings of the brain on the anatomical, cellular, electrical and genetic levels. Participants will come away with a deeper understanding of the methodologies used by neuroscientists and neurologists to visualize how our brains function, and sometimes break down. The field of neuroscience has experienced dramatic advances in imaging technologies over the past 20 years; join us for a day of deciphering these images and illuminating the brain.


Dr. Susan Gauthier is an academic neurologist with a specialty in the treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS). MS is a chronic neurological disease causing variable levels of disability; this may include difficulties with ambulation, vision, balance, and cognition. Although there are FDA approved therapies for the treatment of MS, many patients only partially respond, therefore active research is ongoing in this field to provide novel treatment strategies to patients. Dr. Gauthier’s research interests are based upon imaging myelin and inflammation.  These new imaging approaches can serve to study disease-related changes within the central nervous system as well as function as biomarkers to facilitate the translation of novel treatments into clinical trials for patients.  Dr. Gauthier is committed to providing the highest quality of care to her patients and aspires to improve the quality of life for patients suffering from this disease.

Dr. Linda A. Heier, M.D., F.R.C.P.(C), F.A.C.R., Chief of the Division of Neuroradiology and Professor of Clinical Radiology, earned her M.D. from Western University in Canada. This was followed by radiology residency training at the University of Toronto. She established her interest in Pediatric Neuroradiology at this time when she did her pediatric rotation at The Hospital for Sick Children. A two-year Fellowship in Neuroradiology followed at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center and at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Later in her career, Dr. Heier also did a one-year Interventional Neuroradiology Fellowship at N.Y.U. Medical Center. Dr. Heier was inducted as a Fellow of the American College of Radiology (F.A.C.R.) in April 2014 in recognition of her accomplishments and contributions to the discipline of radiology. Dr. Heier has performed functional MRI for neurosurgical mapping for over 10 years.

Dr. Soha Ashrafi is a post-doctoral fellow at New York University. Soha’s current research focuses on the neuronal basis for sleep in the common fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster. Combining behavioral analysis and classical genetics, Soha’s work seeks to identify the circuits underlying sleep need in the brain, and how these circuits culminate in the onset of sleep. Soha received her Ph.D. from Weill Medical College of Cornell University, where she focused on identifying the molecular mechanisms of neural circuit assembly in the developing mouse spinal cord.

Dr. Carl Schoonover is a postdoctoral fellow in the Axel Laboratory at Columbia University where he investigates the neural circuitry of behaviors mediated by olfaction. His doctoral work in the Bruno Laboratory at Columbia University focused on microanatomy and electrophysiology of rodent somatosensory cortex. He is the author of Portraits of the Mind, and has written for The New York Times, Le Figaro, and Scientific American. In 2007 he co-founded Neuwrite, a collaborative working group for scientists, writers, and those in between. His radio program on WKCR 89.9FM, focuses on opera, classical music, and occasionally their relationship to the brain.

For Carl Schoonover's TED Talk, click here.

This course was organized in collaboration with New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. 

Illuminating the Brain made it into Time Out New York's "Coolest Classes in NYC"! See the full list here: 

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