Joe Z. Tsien, Ph.D.

Cognitive and Systems Neurobiology
Augusta University
Recruited: 2007

Dr. Tsien is interested in understanding how the brain forms memory, emotion, and behaviors. His team applies various genetic techniques and large-scale recording methods to analyze the molecular and neural network mechanisms underlying learning, emotion, and addictive behavior.  He is also interested in applying the neural principles to explore new ways of doing intelligent computing.


The breakthroughs in brain science are taking place very rapidly. We are very fortunate to be at the right place and right moment. Dr. Tsien thinks that current brain science is like molecular biology back in the 1950s and 1960s, a period in which new technologies were exploding and leading the way to discoveries of the organizing principles of universal genetic code.

He sees this is similarly happening as researchers are obtaining more powerful technologies that can potentially lead to the discovery of the universal brain code. The cross-boundary interactions among molecular geneticists, physicists, neurophysiologists, computer scientists, and mathematicians are making this happening.

He and his team are taking two integrated approaches to the study of the brain: one is to use genetic tools to map and manipulate the neural circuits which are essential for memory processes; the other is to monitor activities of large numbers of neurons in those neural circuits during memory acquisition, consolidation and retrieval.

Some of the new technologies such as conditional gene or protein knockout techniques and the brain-computer-interface technologies   provide a unique opportunity to tackle those fundamental questions in a way that it was hard to imagine just a few years ago.

Straight from the Scholar

With our recent discovery of what we believe is the organizing principles of memory code, we are eager to expand technology platforms that can move us to the next level. I see a lot of great opportunities in Georgia's university system, including the opportunity to work closely with many wonderful colleagues at Georgia Tech and Emory. Moreover, the creation of the new Brain Discovery Institute at GHSU and the strong support from GRA put me in a position to launch the "Brain Decoding Initiative." I am aware that it is going to be very challenging, but you know that life without challenges is just too boring.

Read more on Dr. Tsien in the GRA article Meaning of the Mind>