James Ackman

James Ackman

Assistant Professor of MCD Biology

B. S., University of Connecticut

Ph.D., University of Connecticut

Postdoctorate, Mediterranean Institute of Neurobiology and Yale University School of Medicine


Circuit assembly in the developing brain is dependent on a series of innate and experienced cues which act in concert to wire up the nervous system. Since developmental processes must necessarily strike a balance between robustness and malleability to achieve a functionally wired brain, it is crucial to tease apart the interactions within and between circuits to understand how different neurological phenotypes can arise-- for example rearrangements of cortical wiring may trigger childhood epilepsies or autism, while surgical removal of an entire cerebral hemisphere early in development can allow for remarkably normal motor and cognitive function.

Our overall goal is to understand the fundamental principles which govern how the nervous system is wired together and how neural circuit structure and function is established. A central focus of our work is exploring the sources and the flow of brain activity in the cerebral cortex that's involved in the development of synaptic connections between brain regions. Another major effort is concerned with investigating how patterns of activity across brain circuits shape the planning and execution of behavior. We utilize optical imaging of brain activity across the cerebral hemispheres in vivo-- allowing us to directly observe and record the brain at work-- together with electrophysiology, histology, and genetic manipulations of synaptic connectivity that help us visualize how the brain wires itself together. Understanding the mechanisms that govern how neural circuits are established will not only be key to preventing neurodevelopmental disorders, but will be crucial for engineering the brain repair strategies and brain–machine interfaces of the future.

Please follow this link to find the lab's publications in the National Library of Medicine's PubMed database.