Michael Halassa (2013)

My lab is interested in understanding how the brain dynamically gates information flow. Meaning, how is it that we can effortlessly switch between processing different sensory streams, extracting important signals and filtering out distractors? How does the brain shut off sensory flow to process internal memories? To answer these questions, we use the mouse as it offers an optimal platform for combining electrophysiology, optical imaging and well-controlled psychophysics (c.f. Halassa et al., 2014 Cell). Our current focus is on thalamus, dissecting the microcircuits involved in differential gating of information streams to the cortex. Because these basic mechanisms are disrupted in disorders like schizophrenia and autism, our work is inherently translational. Click here to visit my lab's website (halassalab.org).

During my residency at MGH, I worked with Matt Wilson at MIT, where I learned everything I know about freely behaving extracellular recordings and spike train analysis. Prior to that, I worked with Phil Haydon at Penn on the role of glia in synaptic transmission and sleep.


Univ. of Pennsylvania, M.D., Ph.D., 2009
Univ. of Jordan, M.B., B.S., 2004


Wimmer RD, Schmitt LI, Davidson TJ, Nakajima M, Deisseroth K, Halassa MM. Thalamic Control of Sensory Selection in Divided Attention. Nature. 2015 Oct 23. doi: 10.1038/nature15398.

Lewis LD, Voigts J, Flores FJ, Schmitt LI, Wilson MA, Halassa MM, Brown EN. Thalamic Reticular Nucleus Induces Fast and Local Modulation of Arousal State. Elife. 2015 Oct 13;(4). doi: 10.7554/eLife.08760

Brunetti PM, Wimmer RD, Liang L, Siegle JH, Voigts J, Wilson M, Halassa MM. Design and Fabrication of Ultralight Weight, Adjustable Multi-electrode Probes for Electrophysiological Recordings in Mice. Journal of Visualized Experiments. 2014 Sep 8;(91). doi: 10.3791/51675.

Halassa MM, Chen Z, Wimmer RD, Brunetti PM, Zhao S, Zikopoulos B, Wang F, Brown EN, Wilson MA. State-dependent architecture of thalamic reticular subnetworks. Cell. 2014 Aug 14;158(4):808-21. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2014.06.025.

Fellin T, Ellenbogen JM, De Pittà M, Ben-Jacob E, Halassa MM. Astrocyte regulation of sleep circuits: experimental and modeling perspectives. Front Comput Neurosci. 2012;6:65.

Halassa MM, Siegle JH, Ritt JT, Ting JT, Feng G, Moore CI. Selective optical drive of thalamic reticular nucleus generates thalamic bursts and cortical spindles. Nat Neurosci. 2011 Jul 24;14(9):1118-20.

Florian C, Vecsey CG, Halassa MM, Haydon PG, Abel T. Astrocyte-derived adenosine and A1 receptor activity contribute to sleep loss-induced deficits in hippocampal synaptic plasticity and memory in mice. J Neurosci. 2011 May 11;31(19):6956-62.

Halassa MM. Thalamocortical dynamics of sleep: roles of purinergic neuromodulation. Semin Cell Dev Biol. 2011 Apr;22(2):245-51.

Halassa MM, Dal Maschio M, Beltramo R, Haydon PG, Benfenati F, Fellin T. Integrated brain circuits: neuron-astrocyte interaction in sleep-related rhythmogenesis. ScientificWorldJournal. 2010 Aug 17;10:1634-45.

Halassa,M.M. and Haydon,P.G. Integrated Brain Circuits: Astrocytic Networks Modulate Neuronal Activity and Behavior. Annual Review of Physiology, 72, 335-55 (2010)

Fellin,T., Halassa,M.M., Terunuma,M., Succol,F., Takano,H., Moss,SJ & Haydon,P.G. Endogenous non neuronal modulators of synaptic transmission control cortical slow oscillations in vivo. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 106, 15037-42 (2009)

Halassa,M.M., Florian,C., Fellin,T., Munoz,J.R., Lee,S.Y., Abel,T., Haydon,P.G., Frank,M.G. Astrocytic modulation of sleep homeostasis and cognitive consequences of sleep loss. Neuron 61, 216-219 (2009).

Halassa,M.M., Fellin,T., Haydon,P.,G., Tripartite Synapses: roles of astrocytic purines in the control of synaptic physiology and behavior. Neuropharmacology. 57, 343-6 (2009)


2015 NARSAD Young Investigator Award

2015 Biobehavioral Research Award for Innovative New Scientists (BRAINS) R01, NIMH

2015 Allen Institute Next Generation Leaders Council

2015 Klingenstein-Simons Fellowship in the Neurosciences

2015 Daniel X. Freedman Award, Brain and Behavior Research Foundation

2015 Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellowship

2014 SFARI grant from the Simons Foundation

2013 Outstanding Contribution to Neuroscience Award, MGH/McLean

2011 NIH pathway to independence career award (K99/R00), National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

2011 Harry and Saima Solomon Award

2011 NIMH Outstanding Resident Award

2011 Glenn Hatton Memorial Lecture, University of California Riverside

2010 APIRE Janssen Award for psychiatric research

2009 Flexner award for outstanding thesis work in Neuroscience, University of Pennsylvania

2006  Kirschstein-National Research Service Award individual pre-doctoral fellowship, National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke