• Title Research Assistant Professor of Biology
  • Education PhD, Harvard University
  • Web Address http://www.timotchy.com
  • Phone 617-358-1144
  • Area of Interest neural circuits and computation, motor learning and execution, brain-machine interfaces, bioelectronic therapies, brain function localization
  • CV

Current Research

My research program in systems neuroscience and neural engineering is aimed at understanding the neural basis of sensorimotor learning and control and at building the science and engineering base that will allow the creation of reliable neural interfaces for research and therapeutic use.

Systems Neuroscience: The ability to modify future behavior based on past experience is one of the more impressive feats of the brain, and a primary focus of my research is to arrive at a mechanistic description of how this learning algorithm could be implemented by neurons and their connections. This involves identifying the neural circuits involved and understanding their functions and the computations they implement. To this end, we probe, manipulate, and model the neural circuits involved in sensorimotor learning and control in the songbird, a well-studied and experimentally tractable system which allows us to ask precise questions about how motor skills are elaborated in different parts of the brain, and how these representations are modified as a function of learning. In seeking these general principles of brain function, our research aims to provide insight into the neural circuit mechanisms underlying the acquisition, execution, and adaptation of complex behaviors.

Neural Engineering: The ability to monitor and manipulate neuronal activity in freely behaving animals has proven an invaluable tool for dissecting the structure and function of neural circuits underlying a variety of natural behaviors – from navigation and decision making, to perception and motor control. Though there have been extraordinary advances since the era of single microelectrode physiology, a great many devices and techniques remain unsuitable for long-term experiments in freely behaving animal and human subjects. We integrate across biology, engineering, and computational disciplines to develop electrophysiological, optical, and algorithmic tools for advanced study of the brain and the behavior it generates. In the longer term, we seek to develop devices and uncover principles for artificially and predictably sculpting neural circuits for therapeutic applications.

Selected Publications

  • Gillis WF, Lissandrello CA, Shen J, Pearre BW, Mertiri A, Deku F, Cogan S, Holinski BJ, Chew DJ, White AE, Gardner TJ, Otchy TM (2017) Carbon fiber on polyimide ultra-microelectrodes. J Neural Eng, (in press).
  • Otchy TM, Wolff SBE, Rhee JY, Pehlevan C, Kawai R, Kempf A, Gobes SMH, Ölveczky BP (2015) Off-target effects of local circuit manipulations. Nature 528: 358-363.
  • Ali F, Otchy TM, Pehlevan C, Fantana AL, Burak Y, Ölveczky BP (2013) The basal ganglia is necessary for learning spectral, but not temporal features of birdsong. Neuron 80(2): 494-506.
  • Otchy TM, Ölveczky BP (2012) Design and assembly of an ultra-light motorized microdrive for chronic neural recordings in small animals. J Vis Exp 69: 4314.
  • Ölveczky BP, Otchy TM, Goldberg JH, Aronov D, Fee MS (2011) Changes in the neural control of a complex motor sequence during learning. J Neurophys 106(1): 386-97.
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