Michael Halassa aims to understand the basic circuit mechanisms of how information is routed in the brain and how disruptions in these circuits can lead to neurological and psychiatric disorders. His laboratory combines well-controlled parametric behavior with physiological, genetic and optical approaches in mice to understand the neural basis of cognitive processes, such as attention and executive function and how such processes are disturbed in disorders like schizophrenia and autism. In particular, his laboratory has focused on interactions between the thalamus and cortex, identifying novel and unsuspected roles for the thalamus in processes such as attention, executive function and perceptual decision-making. As a practicing psychiatrist, Halassa aims to develop novel approaches to diagnosing and treating neurological illnesses using insights gained from both from the laboratory and clinic.
Halassa obtained an M.D. in 2004 at the University of Jordan and a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 2009. After a residency in psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital at Harvard Medical School and postdoctoral training at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Halassa started up his own laboratory at New York University. In 2018, Halassa moved to MIT to become an assistant professor in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences.