BME Seminar: Siyuan Rao

Jan 16
10:00 AM
Room 218, Whitaker Hall

Siyuan Rao, PhD
Postdoctoral Associate in Bioelectronics Group
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Biomedical Engineering Platform for Neural Circuits Interrogation


Diagnosis of many mental diseases relies heavily on behavioral assessment. To understand the principles of neural circuitry mechanisms and develop effective treatments, it is essential to discover the causative link between behavioral output and cellular activity. Engineering approaches can provide fundamental support to establish the tool platform. Ideally, the platform would have the features including minimal invasiveness to biological tissue; functional longevity; widespread coverage of the neural circuitry; the capability to manipulate neurons at multiple scales, ranging from individual synapse to broad neural circuits; the specificity to identify targeted neural populations. I have been developing effective engineering tools for brain-machine interface to investigate the dynamics of neural circuits. This talk will cover my two main research directions: precise interventional tools for remotely controlled neuromodulation and real-time recording techniques to monitor neural dynamics. In my talk, I will first present a magnetic toolkit for remote neuromodulation, which allows remotely controlled release of pharmacological compounds to modulate targeted neural circuits. This chemomagnetic technique combines magnetic tools and behavioral neuroscience to enable temporally precise modulation of specific neural circuits underlying motivation and social interactions. In the second part, I will introduce an optical recording system to monitor neural dynamics from multiple sites across the central nervous system in freely behaving mice with simultaneous behavioral output.


Dr. Siyuan Rao obtained her Ph.D in Material Physics and Chemistry with Professor Yan Xiang at Beihang University in 2015. Her graduate research focused on the development of bio-hybrid photoelectric devices and electronics. Dr. Rao began her postdoctoral research in neuroengineering and bioelectronics in Professor Polina Anikeeva's lab at MIT in 2016. She has been a Simons Postdoctoral Fellow from 2016 to 2018 with the co-supervision of Professors Polina Anikeeva and Guoping Feng at MIT. She is currently supported by the NIH Pathway to Independence Award (K99/R00).