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Boyden, Ting, and Tye receive grants for innovative medical research.

Three MIT faculty members have been awarded National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants designed to promote innovative biomedical research.

The Institute’s recipients of these NIH grants are Edward Boyden, an associate professor of biological engineering and brain and cognitive sciences; Alice Ting, the Ellen Swallow Richards Associate Professor of Chemistry; and Kay Tye, an assistant professor of brain and cognitive sciences and member of MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory.

The NIH is awarding approximately $123 million to 78 researchers across the country through its High-Risk High-Reward program, supported by the NIH Common Fund, which funds innovative and risk-taking research programs. The awards are divided into three categories: the NIH Director’s Pioneer, New Innovator, and Transformative Research awards.

Tye, who is receiving a New Innovator Award, plans to study the obesity epidemic from the source of the problem: the compulsive consumption of unhealthy foods, such as those high in sugar. To develop a potential therapy to prevent craving from leading to compulsive behavior, she plans to use calcium imaging and electrophysiological recording data to identify the neural signature of craving. Once this neural signature of a craving state is identified, she plans to prevent the switch from craving to compulsion by transiently inhibiting the critical circuit elements using optogenetic manipulations. This research could lead to the identification of novel targets and new paradigms for obesity treatment that involve noninvasive strategies for neural manipulation such as focal ultrasound or transcranial magnetic stimulation… Original Article »

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