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$2.2 -m grant to study social interactions

Mala Murthy

PRINCETON, NJ — Mala Murthy, an Indian American associate professor of molecular biology, is leading a team of Princeton researchers that has received a $2.2 million grant to investigate the brain’s mechanisms at work in social interactions between two animals, from processing each other’s cues to generating complex behaviors in response.

The research was selected by the National Institutes of Health for funding related to the federal Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative.

“The BRAIN Initiative is absolutely critical for supporting pioneering projects like ours that aim to uncover fundamental principles of brain function,” Murthy, who is a Princeton Neuroscience Institute and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute faculty scholar, said in a press release.

Impairments in processing social information and generating appropriate responses underlie several human disorders, including Parkinson’s disease and autism spectrum disorder. The work will focus in particular on the courtship interactions of the vinegar fly, Drosophila melanogaster.

The BRAIN Initiative is a large-scale effort to push the boundaries of neuroscience research and equip scientists to understand and treat a wide variety of brain disorders including Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, autism and traumatic brain injury.

Murthy earned a Ph.D. at Stanford University in 2004 and then conducted postdoctoral research at the California Institute of Technology.