If you want a glimpse into the future, to know where brain research is taking us, just ask Dr. Kay M. Tye. A NARSAD Young Investigator grantee in 2013, Dr. Tye in the eight years since earning her Ph.D. in neuroscience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has won a bevy of top fellowships including the Society for Neuroscience Young Investigator Award as well as the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award. She has been named one of the world’s “35 Top Innovators Under 35” by Technology Review. And she has secured an assistant professorship in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory. This past year Dr. Tye was the recipient of the Foundation’s prestigious Freedman Award, and, separately, was named a member of the Foundation’s Scientific Council.
Dr. Tye speaks with infectious enthusiasm about the subject at the focus of her research: the neural circuits of emotions. Although hard to describe in rigorous scientific terms, emotions come in essentially two flavors, she says: pleasure and pain. So much of behavior has at its root the pursuit of one and the avoidance of the other. And yet, “even during the years I was in graduate school and just getting into neuroscience, most people weren’t very confident that ‘emotion’ was something that you could come up with a mechanistic explanation for.” Original Article »