Partha Mitra is the head of the Mitra Lab at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Mitra and his fellow lab members combine theoretical, computational and experimental approaches to understand biological complexity.
The lab’s goal is to obtain conceptual breakthroughs into how brains work. Despite extensive research, we are still far from a comprehensive understanding of how the nervous system gives rise to the behavioral complexities, cognition and affect. We do not yet know what precisely goes wrong in human brains in most major neuropsychiatric disorders, and therapeutic advances remain slow. Part of the difficulty arises from the complexity of the systems involved: neurobiological phenomena have to be studied at the molecular/cellular level, neural circuit level, behavioral as well as social levels, and in multiple species. Given this complexity, there remain large empirical gaps in our knowledge that can only be filled in experimentally. However, an equally important problem is that of integrating the information thus obtained.
Previous work in the laboratory was largely theoretical and computational in nature, and focused on analyzing behavioral and electrophysiological measurements in a number of model organisms. Currently, the laboratory is focused on the Brain Architecture Project. The basic premise of this project is that, while great advances have been made at the individual neuron and microcircuit levels, there is a large gap at the whole-brain level of analysis of neural circuitry. The Mouse Brain Architecture Project seeks to fill this gap experimentally, by systematically mapping the whole brain meso-circuit of the mouse brain, and simultaneously addressing the computational and theoretical questions that arise.