News Release

PHILADELPHIA—The Mahoney Institute for Neurosciences (MINS) in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania announced that Michael Yartsev, PhD, an assistant professor of Neurobiology and Engineering with the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute and the department of Bioengineering at the University of California, Berkeley, is the recipient of the third-annual Rising Star Award in neuroscience research.

To highlight the Year of Brain Science Technology on Penn’s campus, the 2020 award honors a young researcher for outstanding contributions to the technology of brain science research. The award is given each year to highlight a particular field of neuroscience research. Yartsev will receive a $10,000 personal honorarium and deliver a presentation at the MINS 36th annual retreat and symposium. The retreat and symposium will be held virtually on April 28, 2020. You can sign up to attend and view talks here. If you are planning to submit an abstract, please do so at the time of registration.

MINS focuses on integrated neuroscience research and training, supporting cross-disciplinary and integrated approaches to fundamental, pre-clinical, and clinical research of over 210 faculty members from 32 academic departments at Penn and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

“Major advances in brain research require the expertise, dedication, and cooperation of scientists from many fields of research. Cross-disciplinary research and training are the template for neuroscience advances, and it’s in that spirit we honor and welcome exemplary scientists to Penn through the Rising Star Award,” said John A. Dani, PhD, director of MINS and chair of the Department of Neuroscience in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “The 2020 MINS Rising Star Award honors Dr. Yartsev for expanding the frontiers of basic and clinical neuroscience research. Dr. Yartsev was chosen from an international pool of outstanding applicants, owing to his use of engineering and advanced methodologies to make meaningful advances in our understanding of real-world mammalian behavior.”

Broadly, Yartsev’s research combines a neural-engineering and neuroethological approach to understand the neural basis of complex spatial, acoustic, and social behaviors in mammals. To do this, Yartsev utilizes one of the most spatially and acoustically sophisticated mammals—the echolocating bat. Yartsev’s lab aims to uncover core principles of brain function that are general across mammals.

Most recently, his research showed that bats’ brain activity is in sync when bats engage in social behaviors like grooming, fighting, or sniffing each other. The study, published in Cell, was the first to observe synchronized brain activity in a non-human species engaging in natural social interactions. The finding opens the door to future study on how human brains process social interactions and has potential implications for understanding diseases that affect social behavior, such as Autism.

Michael completed his B.Sc. and M.Sc. in biomedical engineering at the Ben-Gurion University in 2007, and received his PhD in Neuroscience from the Weizmann institute in the laboratory of Nachum Ulanovsky. He was subsequently a C.V. Starr fellow in neuroscience in the Princeton Neuroscience Institute where he completed a post-doc. He has been an Assistant Professor at UC Berkeley with a joint appointment in the department of Bioengineering and the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute since 2015. The broad impact of his laboratory’s work has been acknowledged by scientific awards and publications, including journals such as Nature, Science, and Cell.

Penn Medicine is one of the world’s leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, excellence in patient care, and community service. The organization consists of the University of Pennsylvania Health System and Penn’s Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine, founded in 1765 as the nation’s first medical school.

The Perelman School of Medicine is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $550 million awarded in the 2022 fiscal year. Home to a proud history of “firsts” in medicine, Penn Medicine teams have pioneered discoveries and innovations that have shaped modern medicine, including recent breakthroughs such as CAR T cell therapy for cancer and the mRNA technology used in COVID-19 vaccines.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System’s patient care facilities stretch from the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania to the New Jersey shore. These include the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, Chester County Hospital, Lancaster General Health, Penn Medicine Princeton Health, and Pennsylvania Hospital—the nation’s first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional facilities and enterprises include Good Shepherd Penn Partners, Penn Medicine at Home, Lancaster Behavioral Health Hospital, and Princeton House Behavioral Health, among others.

Penn Medicine is an $11.1 billion enterprise powered by more than 49,000 talented faculty and staff.

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