Jan 13, 2011
Mehta wins $1M grant to study neuron activity in learning
Mayank Mehta, associate professor of physics and astronomy, has been awarded $1 million grant from the W. M. Keck Foundation for a study called “Neurophysics of Multi-Modal Integration and Neural Representation of ‘SPACE.’” Mehta has a joint appointment in the departments of Physics and Astronomy and in the Department of Neurology. His research is in an emerging field called neurophysics that addresses how groups of neurons interact with each other and the physical world to generate the mind.
His past research has shown how the activity of ensembles of neurons is modified by experience such that the neurons learn to anticipate future events based on what has happened in the past. Among other things, such learning can facilitate the learning of spatial maps of the world. The researchers further showed that brain rhythms play a key role in generating such learning.
His recent research demonstrates a novel dialogue between the old and the new parts of the brain that could have a profound influence on the formation of new memories.
The other principal investigators on the project are Katsushi Arisaka
, UCLA professor of physics, and Bahram Jalali
, professor of electrical engineering.
The W. M. Keck Foundation was established in 1954 in Los Angeles by William Myron Keck, founder of the Superior Oil Company. Supporting pioneering discoveries in science, engineering and medical research has been the foundation's mandate for a half-century. In recent years, the foundation has focused on science and engineering research; medical research; undergraduate education; and Southern California. By funding the work of leading researchers and the establishment of unique laboratories and research centers, the Keck Foundation is laying the groundwork for breakthrough discoveries and new technologies that will save lives, provide innovative solutions to complex problems and add immeasurably to our understanding of life on Earth and our place in the universe.