Special Seminar: Your Brain—An Ever-Changing Network

Danielle Bassett, Skirkanich Assistant Professor of Innovation, Department of Bioengineering, University of Pennsylvania

Thursday, April 2, 2015, 12:50–1:50pm

Spanos Auditorium, Cummings Hall

Each of us lives our lives as a node in multiple networks: Our relationships with members of our family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors are just a few examples. But perhaps the most complicated network we engage with in our daily lives is the network inside of our heads: the human brain. The brain has traditionally been studied as a complex organism that benefits from extreme dissection: listing, categorizing, and understanding the component parts has been and remains an important focus. Yet, recent work over the last decade has begun to simplify some of this complexity by summarizing the brain as a network – a network composed of pieces of tissue or collectives of cells that are connected by either a web of hard-wired tracts or a web of functional interactions. The representation of neural data as a network has opened the door to a completely new class of questions that ask how these structures arise, how they function, and how they are altered in psychiatric disease. These questions in turn beg for the development of new computational techniques at the interdisciplinary boundary of applied mathematics, systems engineering, physics, and neuroscience. In this talk, I will highlight some of the initial successes and critical challenges of the new field of network neuroscience, with a special emphasis on the time-dependent nature of brain connectivity and its power to predict differences between each of us in our cognitive abilities. I will close by discussing our efforts to translate the empowering nature of these ideas to the broader community through the incorporation of art at the professional, trainee, and K-12 levels.

About the Speaker

Danielle S. Bassett is the Skirkanich Assistant Professor of Innovation in the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania. She received a B.S. in physics from the Pennsylvania State University and a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Cambridge, UK. Following a postdoctoral position in the Complex Systems Group at the University of California Santa Barbara, she was a Junior Research Fellow at the Sage Center for the Study of the Mind. In 2012, she was named American Psychological Association's `Rising Star' and given a Alumni Achievement Award from the Schreyer Honors College at Pennsylvania State University for extraordinary achievement under the age of 35. In 2014, she was named an Alfred P Sloan Research Fellow and received the MacArthur Fellow Genius Grant. A current focus of her group at Penn lies in developing analytic tools to probe the hard-wired pathways and transient communication patterns inside of the brain in an effort to identify organizational principles, to develop novel diagnostics, and to design personalized therapeutics for rehabilitation and treatment of brain injury, neurological disease, and psychiatric disorders.

For more information, contact Haley Tucker at haley.tucker@dartmouth.edu.