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Structural and Computational Biology and Molecular Biophysics

Houston, Texas

A BCM research lab.
Structural and Computational Biology & Molecular Biophysics
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Stelios M. Smirnakis, M.D., Ph.D.

Stelios M. Smirnakis, Ph.D

Assistant Professor, Neurology

Baylor College of Medicine


B.A., Harvard College
M.A., Physics GSAS, Harvard University
Ph.D., Physics GSAS, Harvard University
M.D., Harvard Medical School

Research Interests:

The goals of Dr. Smirnakis’ research program are twofold:

  • To study the rules of neural plasticity and reorganization following nervous system injury in order to develop strategies that promote neural recovery,
  • To study the rules by which visual stimuli are encoded in the firing patterns of ensembles of neurons, with a particular focus on the influence that stimulus history (adaptation) has on neural responses.

Neural computations in the primate brain involve the concerted activity of many neuronal units both within and across multiple brain areas (distributed coding). In order to understand and eventually promote neural repair, it is necessary to both appreciate the fundamental principles of neural computation at the level of the local neuronal circuits and to examine in vivo how the brain as a whole adjusts to injury in one of its parts. To further these ends Dr Smirnakis' laboratory employs a variety of tools, including:

  • Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) for studying cortical reorganization following injury in humans and primates
  • Classical electrophysiology methods for studying neural coding in the early visual cortex of primates
  • In-vivo 2-photon microscopy methods for studying the structure and function of neocortical circuits and how they malfunction in information processing disorders such as autism (they are currently focusing on the study of a mouse model of autism in collaboration with Dr H. Zoghbi).

Selected Publications:

  • Hannawi Y and Smirnakis SM. Emerging subspecialities: neuroinformatics. Neurology, 80(15):e166-8 (2013). PubMed
  • Kim JY, Ash RT, Ceballos-Diaz C, Levites Y, Golde TE, Smirnakis SM and Jankowsky JL. Viral transduction of the neonatal brain delivers controllable genetic mosaicism for visualising and manipulating neuronal circuits in vivo. Eur J Neurosci, 37(8):1203-20 (2013). PubMed
  • Wijman CA, Smirnakis SM, Vespa P, Szigeti K, Ziai WC, Ning MM, Rosand J, Hanley DF, Geocadin R, Hall C, Le Roux PD, Suarez JI and Zaidat OO.; First Neurocritical Care Research Conference Investigators. Research and technology in neurocritical care. Neurocrit Care, 16(1):42-54 (2012). PubMed
  • Hall CE, Mirski M, Palesch YY, Diringer MN, Qureshi AI, Robertson CS, Geocadin R, Wijman CA, Le Roux PD, Suarez JI; First Neurocritical Care Research Conference Investigators. Clinical trial design in the neurocritical care unit. Neurocrit Care, 16(1):6-19 (2012). PubMed
  • Nichols JA, Nichols AR, Smirnakis SM, Engineer ND, Kilgard MP and Atzori M. Vagus nerve stimulation modulates cortical synchrony and excitability through the activation of muscarinic receptors. Neuroscience, 189:207-14 (2011). PubMed
  • Wandell BA and Smirnakis SM. Plasticity and stability of visual field maps in adult primary visual cortex. Nat Rev Neurosci, 10(12):873-84 (2009). PubMed
  • Tehovnik EJ, Slocum WM, Smirnakis SM and Tolias AS. Microstimulation of visual cortex to restore vision. Prog Brain Res, 175:347-75 (2009). PubMed

For more publications, see listing on PubMed.

Contact Information:

Department: Neurology
Address: Baylor College of Medicine
One Baylor Plaza
Room S517
Houston, Texas 77030
Phone: 713-798-3847
Fax: 713-798-3946

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