Jyoti Mishra, PhD ’08 and Dhakshin Ramanathan, PhD ’07, MD ’09
Partners in the lab, partners in life—such is the story of husband and wife alumni Dhakshin Ramanathan and Jyoti Mishra, a pair of Tritons who met while studying neuroscience in grad school, then came back to discover more about the mind.
The duo met as grad students in a research lab focused on human brain function, launching a shared interest in mental health. Yet as the two grew close, their research pursuits took different paths—Ramanathan went into psychiatry and the clinical treatment of mental illness, while Mishra went on to further research human brain functions and its links with cognition.
These two specialties are the heart of their joint effort at UC San Diego, Neural Engineering and Translation Labs, or NEATLabs, which uses integrated neuroscience and engineering approaches to inform mental health diagnosis and treatment.
“We want to achieve an objective understanding of the basis of mental disorders,” explains Mishra. “We use measures of brain and cognitive function and engineering tools that help us gather such data in the clinic and community. We also want to make sure our methods are accessible to the clinician, so they can replace the traditional approach, which is more subjective—a patient
interprets how they feel and a doctor reports this as symptoms for diagnosis.”
UC San Diego clearly holds a special place in their hearts, beyond just bringing them together. They both attribute the university’s openness toward collaboration as the main reason they brought their work back. “The interdepartment connectedness is part of the culture here,”
Ramanathan says. Already, NEATLabs has formed partnerships with the School of Medicine, the Jacobs School of Engineering and the on-campus U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to explore new methods to predict and treat mental disorders.
“Even though I’m not treating the patient, the work of our lab really has immediate application,” says Mishra, referencing digital technologies her team has developed to improve cognition. “That research can be readily taken further and made into an actual therapy.”
And as for Ramanathan, “I see patients all the time, so I lend that perspective to the research,” he says. “So whether at work or at home, we’re always a team. We’re really in this together.”