The ETH Board has appointed Professor Mackenzie Mathis, from Harvard, to hold EPFL’s Bertarelli Foundation Chair in Integrative Neuroscience.

How does the brain constantly adapt the commands it sends to the muscles to make our body move? This apparently simple question is one that the scientific community has yet to answer. The way our brain adapts neural signals to external stimuli – like the things we see, touch and think – is a complex process. And we’re only just beginning to understand how it works.

Mackenzie Mathis, whose research focuses on exactly this question, was today appointed tenure-track assistant professor at EPFL. She will hold the Bertarelli Foundation Chair in Integrative Neuroscience, the fourth research chair supported by the Foundation. The other three are held by Olaf Blanke, Stéphanie Lacour and Silvestro Micera.

Mathis, born in 1984, is a multi-award-winning scientist and teacher. She currently holds a Rowland Fellowship – a prestigious position at Harvard’s Rowland Institute for outstanding young scholars who wish to carry out independent research immediately after obtaining their PhD. Mathis’ thesis, which she defended in 2017, focused on uncovering the neural circuits and mechanisms underlying sensorimotor learning in mice. 

In her new role at EPFL, Mathis will continue her research into adaptive motor control using a mesoscale 2-photon microscope – technology she developed during her time at Harvard. The device, which supports large-scale brain imaging with a wide field of view, allows scientists to study how adaptation manifests in neural signals. She also brings with her a system known as DeepLabCut, which accurately tracks and quantifies limb movements. Mathis plans to develop the system further, using it to observe how the brain adapts during illness.

Professor Mathis, will take up her new post on August 1st, 2020. Her lab, in Campus Biotech Geneva, will be jointly part of the EPFL’s Center for Neuroposthesis (CNP) and Brain Mind Institute (BMI).