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McKenzie Lab

We study how memories form, how brain activity changes with learning, and how to stop pathological neural synchronization.

Sam McKenzie

Assistant Professor
University of New Mexico Department of Neurosciences

I study how memory spaces form. Somehow the brain compresses irrelevant details while parsing features that lead to divergent futures. Part of the challenge of building such a memory space lies in the allocation of similar neural activity to situations that require common responses. This allocation must be done right if action is to appropriately generalize in novel circumstances. Since every moment is unique, we must somehow extract and generalize commonalities to understand the causal structure of our world.

How do we do that? How does the brain pull up the right pattern of neural activity at the right moment? What does it mean for these patterns to be similar enough to one another to drive appropriate actions? What is the right neural code to consider to begin this line of inquiry?

One important feature is the pattern of neural co-activity. My work focuses on what makes certain neurons fire together at the expense of others. I study how those neural patterns propagate, and how neural representations change with learning.

The rules of neural synchronization can go awry during epilepsy. In addition to my basic science research, my lab is working towards developing seizure forecasting algorithms and closed-loop stimulation protocols to control the spread of seizures. A major consequence of epilepsy is memory deficits. My lab will seek an understanding of why that is so, and what can be done to help.

Variation on Heraclitus

Reappearance presumes disappearance, it may not be nice
Or proper or easily analysed not to be static
But none of your slide snide rules can catch what is sliding so fast
And, all you advisers on this by the time it is that,
I just do not want your advice
Nor need you be troubled to pin me down in my room
Since the room and I will escape for I tell you flat:
One cannot live in the same room twice.

-Louis MacNeice