As a graduate student, Jeffrey Markowitz joined a lab that was studying how zebra finches create their courtship song. The finches could learn their father’s song and then generate the exact same sequence of muscle movements up to a thousand times a day for years and years with near-perfect precision.
From then on, Markowitz was hooked on understanding how the brain controls motor sequencing.
In March, Markowitz became the newest faculty member in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University, where he will continue to unravel how the brain controls action with a combination of computational, engineering, and biological approaches.
“The same brain circuits that control action selection also, when they go awry, lead to debilitating disorders, such Parkinson’s disease. We hope that through advancing our understanding the function and logic of these circuits, and through engineering new approaches to controlling their activity, we can pave the way toward new therapeutics for neurological disease,” Markowitz said.
Some of his primary work is exploring the potential of deep brain stimulation to help patients with neurological disease.
“It seems reasonable to assume that one pattern [of stimulation] might work in one context, and a completely different pattern might be required in another. So, a primary thrust in my lab is to develop new closed-loop approaches to deep brain stimulation,” Markowitz said. “We want to use machine learning to rapidly detect the state of the brain and the body, and then deliver tailored stimulation in response.”
Markowitz recently finished his postdoctoral work at Harvard Medical School. He earned his Ph.D. at Boston University and his bachelor’s at Johns Hopkins University.