Nancy Kopell, Ph.D.
Co-Director, Center for BioDynamics
Primary appointment, Mathematics
Ph.D, Mathematics, University of California, Berkeley
Applied mathematics and dynamical systems.
Dr. Kopell’s major current interest is in the dynamics of the nervous system, especially rhythmic behavior in networks of neurons. Rhythms have been known in the nervous system for about three quarters of a century, but it is still mysterious what biophysical mechanisms produce them, and what functions they serve. In the last decade, there have been many papers linking rhythms at different frequencies to attention, perception, learning and recall, as well as motor behavior. Synchronous assemblies of neurons are thought to be important for distributed processing in the nervous system, including “binding” of activity from different parts of the nervous system, gating incoming signals, potentiating outgoing signals and facilitating plasticity. Some of the specific projects on which Dr. Kopell has worked are discussed in the Neural Dynamics Research page. They include work on the biophysical substrate of network coherence, creation and modulation of cell assemblies, and synchronization across distances. A long-range goal of Dr. Kopell’s is to understand how the dynamical properties of local networks help to filter and transform the patterned input form other parts of the nervous system, to provide clues to the function of dynamics in the nervous system. Dr. Kopell continues to be interested in Central Patten Generators, networks of neurons that govern rhythmic motor behavior. Another ongoing interest is in the geometric theory of singularly perturbed systems.