Dr. Tolias received the award for his focused research efforts on the organization of neural network interactions in the visual system, and their functional consequences for perception. Using both macaque and mouse models, his lab employs visually guided behaviors with the goal of understanding the computations underlying perception at the level of the individual neuron. The ability to continuously record individual neurons in an awake, behaving animal is an important technology, and the implications of this area of study are significant for the field of neuroscience and for an array of human diseases, including autism and schizophrenia. His record of publications in high-impact journals includes a recent paper in Science that demonstrates how the basic wiring of the local circuitry of the neocortex can be captured using a few connectivity rules that are recycled across the neocortex. This connectivity map will serve as a powerful blueprint to pinpoint specific circuit problems in animal models of disease. Also, Dr. Tolias is now leading the ambitious multi-institution project Machine Intelligence from Cortical Networks (MICrONS) which aims to reveal the computational building blocks of our brain and use them to create smarter learning machines. It is part of the broader BRAIN Initiative, launched in 2013 by President Obama with the goal of understanding devastating brain diseases and developing new technology, treatments and cures.
Dr. Tolias' nomination was based on the following publications:
Cadwell CR, Palasantza A, Jiang X, Berens P, Deng Q, Yilmaz M, Reimer J, Shen S, Bethge M, Tolias KF, Sandberg R, Tolias AS. Electrophysiological, transcriptomic and morphologic profiling of single neurons using Patch-seq. Nat Biotechnol. 2016 Feb;34(2):199-203. doi: 10.1038/nbt.3445. Epub 2015 Dec 21.
Froudarakis E, Berens P, Ecker AS, Cotton RJ, Sinz FH, Yatsenko D, Saggau P, Bethge M, Tolias AS. Population code in mouse V1 facilitates readout of natural scenes through increased sparseness. Nat Neurosci. 2014 Jun;17(6):851-7. doi: 10.1038/nn.3707. Epub 2014 Apr 20. PubMed PMID: 24747577; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4106281.
Jiang X, Shen S, Cadwell CR, Berens P, Sinz F, Ecker AS, Patel S, Tolias AS. Principles of connectivity among morphologically defined cell types in adult neocortex. Science. 2015 Nov 27;350(6264):aac9462. doi: 10.1126/science.aac9462.