Assistant Professor of Biology; Affiliate Member, Picower Institute for Learning and Memory
Graduate: Ph.D., 2016, Stanford University Undergraduate: BA, 2009, Human Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University
Brady Weissbourd uses the jellyfish Clytia hemisphaerica to ask questions in systems and evolutionary neuroscience. A primary goal of his lab is to understand how animal behaviors arise from patterns of neural activity, and how these dynamic patterns themselves arise from circuit structures and the dynamic cell biology of neurons. Since the jellyfish are tiny, transparent, and genetically tractable, the lab can record and manipulate large-scale neural activity in awake animals. The lab is then interested in taking a comparative approach towards understanding nervous system origins and principles, using the robust, distributed neural networks of jellyfish as a valuable point of comparison. Weissbourd completed his bachelor’s degree at Harvard, where he studied evolutionary biology and neuroscience, followed by a Ph.D. at Stanford with Liqun Luo studying the mouse serotonin system. As a postdoctoral fellow with David Anderson, he established Clytia as a neuroscience model before joining the MIT faculty in the Department of Biology in January 2023.
We use the tiny, transparent jellyfish, Clytia hemisphaerica, to ask questions at the interface of nervous system evolution, development, regeneration, and function. Our foundation is in systems neuroscience, where we use genetic and optical techniques to examine how behavior arises from the activity of networks of neurons. Building from this work, we investigate how the Clytia nervous system is so robust, both to the constant integration of newborn neurons and following large-scale injury. Lastly, we use Clytia’s evolutionary position to study principles of nervous system evolution and make inferences about the ultimate origins of nervous systems.