Sur did his early schooling in Allahabad, India at the St. Joseph's Collegiate School. He received the Bachelor of Technology degree in electrical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur (IIT Kanpur) in 1974, and the Master of Science and PhD degrees in electrical engineering in 1975 and 1978, respectively, from Vanderbilt University in Nashville. After postdoctoral research at SUNY Stony Brook, he was appointed to the faculty of Yale University School of Medicine in 1983. He joined the faculty of the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). in 1986. He was named in 1993 the Sherman Fairchild Professor of Neuroscience and in 1997 head of the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences. He is currently the Newton Professor of Neuroscience, head of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, and director of the Simons Initiative on Autism and the Brain at MIT.
Sur is a pioneer in the study of brain plasticity and its mechanisms. Using experimental and theoretical approaches, his laboratory studies developmental plasticity and the dynamic changes in mature cortical networks during information processing, learning and memory. His laboratory has discovered fundamental principles by which neurons of the cerebral cortex are wired during development and change dynamically in adulthood. In landmark experiments, he “rewired” the brain to explore how the environment influences the development of cortical circuits. The retina, which normally projects to the visual cortex, was induced to project to structures that normally process hearing. Visual input altered the development of neuronal connections in the auditory cortex, thus enabling animals to use their "hearing" cortex to "see."
These findings have implications for restoring function after brain damage and for constructing neural prostheses for recovery from stroke or trauma. The Sur laboratory also studies genes involved in constructing the cerebral cortex, and the ways in which gene networks are influenced by brain activity. These studies are providing important insights into childhood disorders such as autism. Stemming from this work, a pharmacological treatment for Rett Syndrome has entered clinical trials.
By imaging calcium responses of single neurons and astrocytes in vivo using high resolution imaging methods, his laboratory has discovered that astrocytes have remarkably specific functional properties and mediate blood flow to active brain regions. This work has revealed the mechanism for noninvasive brain imaging methods such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).
The Sur laboratory has also shown how neurons of the mature visual cortex alter their responses dynamically based on the configuration of visual stimuli in space and time. The laboratory studies the mechanisms by which visual neurons at the earliest stages of cortical processing are influenced not only by “bottom up” visual inputs but also in “top down” manner by mental state, including attention and expectation. These studies provide fundamental information about higher brain mechanisms, including those involved in vision, cognition, and learning.
Honours and Awards
Sur has received the Charles Judson Herrick Award from the American Association of Anatomists (1983), the A.P. Sloan Foundation Fellowship (1985), the McKnight Neuroscience Development Award (1988), the School of Science Prize for Excellence in Graduate Teaching (2000), the Distinguished Overseas Lectureship of the Australian Neuroscience Society (2000), the Sigma Xi Distinguished Lectureship (2001), and the Distinguished Alumnus Award of the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur (2002), and named among the top 50 alumni of IIT Kanpur (2010). He has been honored at MIT with the Hans-Lukas Teuber Scholar Award in the Brain Sciences (1997) and the Sherman Fairchild Chair (1998), and the Newton Chair (2008). He has been elected to the membership of the National Academy of Sciences, India, the Rodin Academy Sweden, the Neurosciences Research Program, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the International Neuropsychological Symposium, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Royal Society of London, the Third World Academy of Sciences.
- Selected from over 200 publications.
- Sur, M., P.E. Garraghty and A.W. Roe. Experimentally induced visual projections into auditory thalamus and cortex. Science 242: 1437-1441, 1988.
- Roe, A.W., S.L. Pallas, J.O. Hahm and M. Sur. A map of visual space induced in primary auditory cortex. Science 250: 818-820, 1990.
- Hahm, J.-O., R.B. Langdon and M. Sur. Disruption of retinogeniculate afferent segregation by antagonists to NMDA receptors. Nature 351: 568-570, 1991.
- Nelson, S., L. Toth, B. Sheth, and M. Sur. Orientation selectivity of cortical neurons persists during intracellular blockade of inhibition. Science 265: 774-777, 1994.
- Somers, D.C., S.B. Nelson and M. Sur. An emergent model of orientation selectivity in cat visual cortical simple cells. Journal of Neuroscience 15: 5448-5465, 1995.
- Toth, L.J., S.C. Rao, D.-S. Kim, D. Somers and M. Sur. Subthreshold facilitation and suppression in primary visual cortex revealed by intrinsic signal imaging. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 93: 9869-9874, 1996.
- Sheth, B.R., J. Sharma, S.C. Rao and M. Sur. Orientation maps of subjective contours in visual cortex. Science 274: 2110-2115, 1996.
- Dragoi, V., J. Sharma and M. Sur. Adaptation-induced plasticity of orientation tuning in primary visual cortex. Neuron 28:287-298, 2000.
- Sharma, J., A. Angelucci and M. Sur. Induction of visual orientation modules in auditory cortex. Nature 404: 841-847, 2000.
- Von Melchner, L., S.L. Pallas and M. Sur. Visual behavior mediated by retinal projections directed to the auditory pathway. Nature 404: 871-876, 2000.
- Dragoi, V., C. Rivadulla and M. Sur. Foci of orientation plasticity in visual cortex. Nature 411: 80-86, 2001.
- Weng, J., J. McClelland, A. Pentland, O. Sporns, I. Stockman, M. Sur and E. Thelen. Autonomous mental development by robots and animals. Science 291: 599-600, 2001.
- Dragoi, V., C. Turcu and M. Sur. Stability of cortical responses and the statistics of natural scenes. Neuron 32: 1181-1192, 2001.
- Dragoi, V., J. Sharma, E.K. Miller and M. Sur. Dynamics of neuronal sensitivity in visual cortex and local feature discrimination. Nature Neuroscience 5: 883-891, 2002.
- Schummers, J., J. Marino and M. Sur. Synaptic integration by V1 neurons depends on location within the orientation map. Neuron 36: 969-978, 2002.
- Newton, J.R., C. Ellsworth, T. Miyakawa, S. Tonegawa and M. Sur. Acceleration of visually cued conditioned fear through the auditory pathway. Nature Neuroscience 7: 968-973, 2004.
- Oray S, A. Majewska and M. Sur. Dendritic spine dynamics are regulated by monocular deprivation and extracellular matrix degradation. Neuron 44: 1021-1030, 2004.
- Sur, M. and J. Rubenstein. Patterning and plasticity of the cerebral cortex. Science 310: 805-810, 2005.
- Mariño J., J. Schummers, D.C. Lyon, L. Schwabe, O. Beck, P. Wiesing, K. Obermayer and M. Sur. Invariant computations in local cortical networks with balanced excitation and inhibition. Nature Neuroscience 8: 194-201, 2005.
- Yu, H., B. Farley, D. Z. Jin and M. Sur. The coordinated mapping of visual space and stimulus features in visual cortex. Neuron 47: 267-280, 2005.
- Tropea, D., G. Kreiman, A. Lyckman, S. Mukherjee, H. Yu, S. Horng and M. Sur. Gene expression changes and molecular pathways mediating activity-dependent plasticity in visual cortex. Nature Neuroscience 9: 660-668, 2006.
- Wang, K.H., A. Majewska, J. Schummers, B. Farley, C. Hu, M. Sur, and S. Tonegawa. In vivo two-photon imaging reveals a role of Arc in enhancing orientation specificity in visual cortex. Cell 126: 389-402, 2006.
- Schummers, J., H. Yu and M. Sur. Tuned responses of astrocytes and their influence on hemodynamic signals in the visual cortex. Science 320: 1638-1643, 2008.
- Tropea, D., E. Giacometti, N. R. Wilson, C. Beard, C. McCurry, D. Fu, R. Flannery, R. Jaenisch, and M. Sur. Partial reversal of Rett-Syndrome like symptoms in MeCP2 mutant mice. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106: 2029-2034, 2009.
- Page, D.T., O. Kuti, C. Prestia and M. Sur. Haploinsufficiency for Pten and Serotonin transporter cooperatively influences brain size and social behavior. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106: 1989-1994, 2009.
- McCurry, C.L., J.D. Shepherd, D. Tropea, K.H. Wang, M.F. Bear and M. Sur. Loss of Arc renders the visual cortex impervious to the effects of sensory deprivation or experience. Nature Neuroscience 13: 450-457, 2010.
- Runyan, C.A., J.Schummers, A.Van Wart, S.Kuhlmann, N.Wilson, Z.J.Huang and M. Sur. Response features of parvalbumin-expressing interneurons suggest precise roles for subtypes of inhibition in visual cortex. Neuron 9: 847-857, 2010.
- "Star-Shaped Brain Cells Make Scans Possible". The Washington Post. 19 June 2008. Retrieved 29 September 2010.
- "Mriganka Sur Laboratory at MIT". Sur Laboratory website. Retrieved 11 April 2011.
- "MIT : Brain and Cognitive Sciences : People : Faculty : Mriganka Sur". MIT Departmental website. Retrieved 11 April 2011.
- "The Picower Institute: Faculty + Research: Mriganka Sur". Picower Institute for Learning and Memory website.
- "Mriganka Sur, Ph.D. - Autism Consortium". Autism Consortium website.