Modulation of neural function with electronic, optical, and magnetic tools

Polina Anikeeva
Class of 1942 Associate Professor in Materials Science & Engineering (DMSE)
Associate Professor, Brain & Cognitive Sciences (BCS)
Associate Director, Research Laboratory of Electronics (RLE)

2020 SENSE.nano Symposium
Monday, September 21, 2020
Session 2: Organs
3:20PM – 4:35PM EST

To understand the function and dynamics of the nervous system, and to find treatments for the neurological and psychiatric conditions that increasingly affect our aging society, new tools capable of addressing neuronal signaling complexity are urgently needed. These tools must also match the mechanical and chemical properties of the neural tissue to avoid foreign body response and functional perturbation to local circuits. By leveraging fiber-drawing methods from the telecommunications industry, our group creates flexible and stretchable probes capable of recording and stimulation of neural activity, as well as delivery of drugs and genes into the brain and spinal cord. We use these probes to interrogate brain circuits, such as those involved in anxiety and fear, and to promote recovery following spinal cord and nerve injury. Simultaneosly, we develop a broad range of magnetic nanotransducers that convert externally applied magnetic fields into thermal, chemical, and mechanical signals, which can then be perceived by ion channels on neurons. Since biological tissues exhibit negligible magnetic permeability and low conductivity, magnetic fields can penetrate deep into the body with no attenuation, allowing us to apply the nanomagnetic transducers to remotely control deep brain circuits associated with reward and motivation, as well as adrenal circuits involved in regulation of corticosterone and (nor)epinephrine release.

A photo of Polina AnikeevaBiography
Polina Anikeeva received her BS in physics from St. Petersburg State Polytechnic University in 2003. After graduation she spent a year at the Los Alamos National Lab working on quantum dot photovoltaic cells. She then enrolled in a PhD program in materials science at MIT and graduated in January 2009 with her thesis dedicated to the design of light emitting devices based on organic materials and nanoparticles. She completed her postdoctoral training at Stanford, where she created devices for optical stimulation and recording from neural circuits.

In 2011, Polina joined the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at MIT, where she is now an Associate Professor. Her lab focuses on the development of flexible and minimally invasive materials and devices for neural recording, stimulation, and repair. Polina is a recipient of NSF CAREER Award, DARPA Young Faculty Award, the TR35, and 2018 Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise among other honors.