2013 Winner Michael Yartsev, Ph.D. CV Starr Postdoctoral Research Fellow Princeton Neuroscience Institute Princeton University

Dr. Michael Yartsev received his undergraduate and masters degree in bio-medical engineering from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel in 2007. For his Ph.D. he joined the lab of Dr. Nachum Ulanovsky in the department of neurobiology at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. There, he recorded the activity of single neurons from the hippocampal formation of freely behaving and flying bats to study the underlying neural mechanisms of spatial memory and navigation in the mammalian brain. Since 2012, Dr. Yartsev is a CV Starr Fellow at the Princeton Neuroscience Institute in Princeton University, where he is conducting postdoctoral research work in the lab of Prof. Carlos Brody studying the neural basis of decision making.

Space Bats: Multi-dimensional spatial representation in the bat hippocampal formation
All animals on our planet, either on the ground, the ocean depths, or in the sky, must have knowledge of their whereabouts to survive. How the brain solves the problem of knowing where we are in space is a core question in neuroscience. During his Ph.D . in the laboratory of Nachum Ulanovsky, Dr. Yartsev studied the neural activity of spatially selective neurons in the hippocampal formation of freely behaving and flying bats to gain insight into this problem.  The use of a novel animal model along with the technological development to monitor the activity of single neurons during flight, allowed him to conduct both causal examinations of leading hypotheses in the field as well as to provide novel insights into the neural codes underlying the representation of three-dimensional space in the brain. In the future, Dr. Yartsev plans to use these and other methods to also study the computations taking place in the brain during decision making processes, taking advantage of the bat’s unique behavioral repertoire and sensory systems.

For Dr. Yartsev’s full essay, see Science Online at sciencemag.org.

2013 Finalists
Sophie Caron, Ph.D.
Daniel Bendor, Ph.D.