The NOMIS Foundation has released its third Insight film, which features 2017 NOMIS Awardee Karl Deisseroth and depicts the journey of his recently concluded NOMIS research project, Discovering the Causal Principles Underlying Brain-Wide Dynamics, which ran from 2017 to 2022. Created in collaboration with Vollformat, the film presents Deisseroth’s pioneering research that has generated new insights and tools to understand the brain, and which could spur a paradigm shift from correlation-based to causal-based therapies for brain disorders.
Discovering the Causal Principles Underlying Brain-Wide Dynamics project
To better understand the brain and to design better treatments for those who suffer from psychiatric disorders such as dissociative states, Deisseroth and his lab have developed a fundamental approach to look at the activity of neurons across the entire brain during behavior. The technology, optogenetics, uses light to turn on or off individual types of neurons using genes from microbes and was the focus of his project.
Through his NOMIS research project, Deisseroth and his team discovered a new class of light-sensitive molecules, which make light-responsive proteins that move charged particles across membranes—including one called Carmine. This transformative discovery enabled Deisseroth and other neuroscientists to investigate the brain’s activity noninvasively. He then introduced Fast Light and Calcium-Regulated Expression (FLiCRE), creating a neural activity map related to behavior in mice. This was followed by another groundbreaking discovery—the identification of cells and circuits in a specific area of the brain implicated in the subjective state of dissociation.
The Brain-Wide Dynamics project has given rise to new research methods and a unique perspective of the brain that are contributing to a better understanding of the internal representations in our minds that generate our sense of self.
NOMIS Insight films
Often the fruit of a long quest and years of careful research, insight advances our understanding of the world. Insight films highlight the knowledge and insights gained by NOMIS Distinguished Scientist and Scholar Awardees through their unique, collaborative and interdisciplinary NOMIS research projects. By sharing their research journeys—the successes and the challenges—NOMIS Awardees are contributing to the advancement of science and human progress.