About the Center for Systems Neuroscience

Systems Neuroscience studies the basic mechanisms by which nervous systems pull diverse resources together to guide and sustain life.

Memory, cognition, sensation, perception, normal or pathological function; all of these are actively investigated by Systems Neuroscientists. Research at the Systems level requires use of the best of both reductionist and integrative approaches to understand very complex and dynamic systems.

The self-organizing systems in all brains take in information, assess it, form memories of some details and filter out the rest as noise, and plan and execute actions both immediately and over the long-term. Sometimes these processes are highly successful, usually they require adaptive adjustment, and at times they go badly wrong. Full knowledge of how the brain and its constituent neurons work in each of these circumstances is critical to scientific understanding, and has tremendous potential for improving the quality of life.

To understand neuronal function at the Systems level, neuroscientists use, develop and adapt tools from all levels of study. Genomic and molecular tools can assess mechanisms regulating basal metabolism and plasticity. Biophysical, pharmacological, computational and engineering tools can analyze the physiology of ion channels, of synapses, of whole cells, and of broader and broader networks of neurons up through models of the entire brain. Systems Neuroscientists leverage paradigms for behavioral analyses of simple learning on up through studies of psychiatric or degenerative disorders that can take years or decades to develop and become manifest. At the Systems level, individual neurons and groups of neurons communicate with one another in complex and subtle ways. Some neurons are specialized, but many participate in a wide range of functions, responding as needed to different inputs and shaping the actions of different targets. The scale and nature of these complex interactions are at the core of basic Systems Neuroscience.

Systems Neuroscience asks the big questions, yet makes progress taking answers from all scales of scientific study.