The human brain is an extraordinarily complex network comprised of billions of nerve cells interconnected by trillions of axonal fibers. Interactions unfolding within this intricate web of connectivity form the basis of all our thoughts, emotions and behavior, and their derailment can lead to mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Accordingly, generating an accurate and comprehensive wiring diagram for the brain-the so-called human connectome-has become a major goal in neuroscience, comparable in scale to the Human Genome Project.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has emerged as an important tool in these efforts because it provides a unique window into large-scale brain structure and function in living humans. My research concentrates on developing new MRI techniques for mapping human brain connectivity and applying these methods to understand brain function in health and disease. Key emphases involve uncovering major principles of brain organization; understanding their genetic basis; characterizing brain connectivity disturbances in psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia; and mapping how brain networks dynamically reconfigure themselves in response to changing task demands.
To achieve these goals, my team at the Brain and Mental Health Lab uses techniques from a range of disciplines, spanning complex network science, mathematics, psychology and psychiatry, neuroscience and genetics. A major focus is on the application of graph theoretic methods to MRI data, particularly functional and diffusion MRI, and its integration with behavioral and clinical information. By leveraging this multi-disciplinary approach, we hope to generate novel insights into the inner workings of the brain and how its dysfunction gives rise to mental illness.