TEDxBoston 2014

Steve Ramirez, Xu Liu, Ph.D.

Activating Positive Memories

What to be optimistic about on the frontiers of brain research


Speakers' Biographies

Steve Ramirez

Steve is a graduate student at MIT’s Brain and Cognitive Sciences department pursuing a Ph.D. in neuroscience. His work focuses on finding where single memories are located throughout the brain, genetically tricking the brain cells that house these memories to respond to brief pulses of light, and then using these same flickers of light to reactivate, erase and implant memories. The goals of his research are twofold: to figure out how the brain gives rise to the seemingly ephemeral process of memory, and to predict what happens when specific brain pieces breakdown to impair cognition. His work has been published in Science and covered by New Scientist, Discover, Scientific American, and Gizmodo.

Ramirez aims to be a professor who runs a lab that plucks questions from the tree of science fiction to ground them in experimental reality. He believes that a team-oriented approach to science makes research and teaching far more exciting. When he’s not tinkering with memories in the lab, Ramirez also enjoys running and cheering on every sports team in the city of Boston.

Xu Liu, Ph.D.

Dr. Xu Liu received his Ph. D. degree from Baylor College of Medicine, where he studied the molecular and cellular mechanisms of learning and memory using the fruit fly as a model system in Professor Ron Davis lab. During his postdoctoral research in Professor Susumu Tonegawas lab at MIT, he established a system in the mouse model, where neurons involved in a particular memory can be labeled and later activated by light stimulation. Together with his collaborators Steve Ramirez and others, they found that activating these labeled cells was sufficient to induce the recall of the memory, and also they could alter the memory by manipulating these cells. He is an assistant professor in the Department of Neurobiology at Northwestern University since 2015.