Statement of Purpose

Systems neuroscience has been a major strength of research at Boston University. The Boston University Center for Systems Neuroscience (CSN) was established to provide a unifying collaborative and administrative structure designed to further enhance research, foster collaboration, and enhance recruitment of new researchers in the field of systems neuroscience in multiple colleges and departments on both the Charles River Campus and Medical Campus.

The Center for Systems Neuroscience is interdisciplinary and interdepartmental in nature and University-wide in scope. The mission of the center is to advance research in systems neuroscience at Boston University with the following specific goals:

a) To establish an internationally recognized academic center at Boston University that will attract talented young investigators for training in the experimental techniques and mathematical theories of systems neuroscience.

b) To foster collaborative research. The center will foster collaborations from different fields of research to make experimental and conceptual breakthroughs in our understanding of the function of brain circuits, including analysis of neural phenomena in experiments at the system level and testing of computational theories of neural function. This will include fostering collaborations between researchers in the College of Arts & Sciences, the College of Engineering, the College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences: Sargent College, the School of Medicine, and others, as appropriate. The center will be synergistic and will work collaboratively with other centers at Boston University including the Photonics Center, the Center for Computational Science, the Center for Memory & Brain, the Center for Computational Neuroscience & Neural Technology, and the Cognitive Rhythms Collaborative.

c) To support cutting-edge research. The primary research goal of the center is to examine how systems of interacting neurons mediate behavioral function. This includes investigating the brain systems underlying functions such as perception and attention, learning and memory, speech and hearing, decision-making, movement, and planning. The center will support research including the study of population function within individual regions, as well as systems of interacting regions, spanning from recordings of single neurons within individual brain regions to functional imaging of large-scale activity within interacting brain regions. Understanding brain systems is also relevant to furthering our understanding of the etiologies of neurological and psychiatric diseases and impairments.

d) To generate and provide access to technical innovations appropriate for enhancing understanding of neural systems. The recent federal Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative has highlighted the need for the generation of novel techniques for studying the brain. These techniques will include techniques for large-scale network recording capabilities, to observe the selective activity of individual neurons within large populations using voltage recording or calcium imaging. Techniques will also include elucidating the role of populations of neurons using circuit manipulations such as optogenetic interventions that increase or decrease neural activity in identified populations during behavior.

e) To link neural mechanisms to human behavior. The Center for Systems Neuroscience will foster collaborative research linking human behavior to neural mechanisms by improving access to imaging techniques through a new Center for Cognitive Neuroimaging. Work in the center will enhance understanding of the large-scale macroscopic activity within human brain structures associated with cognitive functions such as memory, spatial navigation, attention and perception, and speech and language, using state-of-the-art functional magnetic resonance imaging techniques.

f) To develop new computational models that account for current experimental data and generate predictions to guide new experiments. The center will build upon current strengths at Boston University in the development of theoretical and computational models as well as statistical techniques for data analysis to foster collaborations between experimentalists in departments such as Biology, Psychological & Brain Sciences, and Speech, Language & Hearing Sciences with faculty from Mathematics & Statistics, Biomedical Engineering, Physics, and the Center for Computational Science.