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Transforming the understanding
and treatment of mental illnesses.

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BSC Member - Gordon Fishell, Ph.D.

Gordon Fishell, Ph.D. is a professor in the department of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical center and an institute member of the Broad institute. He was previously the associate director of the New York University (NYU) Neuroscience Institute, Julius Raines Professor of Neuroscience and Physiology at NYU, and director of the graduate program in neuroscience and physiology at the NYU School of Medicine. Dr. Fishell completed his Ph.D. in neurobiology from the University of Toronto and conducted postdoctoral research at Columbia University and the Rockefeller University. His laboratory is interested in how the architecture of brain circuits is assembled, with a special focus on the diverse populations of inhibitory interneurons that are found in both pallial and subpallial telencephalon. His laboratory has spent the past 20 years working to understand the inhibitory cells that regulate excitatory signaling in the brain. In its simplest sense, brain inhibition is the stop signal that prevents the brain from becoming over-excited. In practice, it is much more nuanced. Our brain is bombarded by our senses and without the ability of inhibitory cells to gate the salient from the irrelevant, our ability to function in normal life would descend into chaos. Indeed, numerous lines of evidence suggest that defects in inhibition are a proximal cause for a range of brain disorders, including autism. The loss of appropriate inhibitory control results in autistic individuals being unable to ignore the touch of clothing on their skin or focus on the person they are talking to without being distracted by extraneous sounds. Dr. Fishell’s hope is that by understanding how the genetic insults that manifest in autism affect the development and function of interneurons, we will be able to create approaches to treat individuals with this pervasive disorder.