Michael Halassa, MD, PhD, Awarded Prestigious Sloan Research Fellowship

Researcher Named Among 126 “Outstanding Young Scholars” in Science

Michael M. Halassa, MD, PhD, assistant professor, Departments of Psychiatry and Neuroscience and Physiology at NYU Langone Medical Center’s Neuroscience Institute, has been selected as a winner of the 2015 Sloan Research Fellowship.

The two-year fellowship is awarded to 126 researchers whose “achievements place them among the next generation of scientific leaders in the U.S. and Canada.” The award has been presented annually since 1955 by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Dr. Halassa’s research aims to understand the basic circuit mechanisms of how the brain appropriately selects sensory input to guide cognitive behavior and how disruptions in these circuits can lead to neurodevelopmental and neuropsychiatric disorders. Studies are geared towards cracking the neural code underlying normal circuit function, as well as discovering and treating abnormalities in disease.

Dr. Halassa recently published a study August 14 in Cell in which he recorded the activity of individual nerve cells in a small part of the brain called the thalamic reticular nucleus that works as a "switchboard," directing signals coming from the outside world or internal memories. Because disorders such as schizophrenia, autism, and ADHD show evidence for a perturbed switchboard, the findings may suggest new strategies in understanding and treating these conditions. Dr. Halassa actively treats patients with these disorders at NYU Langone. He is also affiliated with the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Veterans Center as his research has application for post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.

Sloan Research fellowships are presented across eight scientific fields—chemistry, computer science, economics, mathematics, evolutionary and computational molecular biology, neuroscience, ocean sciences, and physics. Winners are nominated by their fellow scientists and selected through close cooperation with the scientific community. The fellowship comes with a grant of $50,000 over a two-year period to further their research.

Past recipients of Sloan Research Fellowships have gone on to win 39 Nobel prizes, 16 Fields Medals (mathematics) and 13 John Bates Clark Medals (economics), according to the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

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