Kafui Dzirasa is the K. Ranga Rama Krishnan endowed Associate Professor at Duke University with appointments in the Departments of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Neurobiology, Biomedical Engineering, and Neurosurgery. He is the first African American to complete a Ph.D. in Neurobiology at Duke University. He went on to obtain his M.D. from the Duke University School of Medicine and completed residency training in General Psychiatry. His research interests focus on using neurotechnology to understand how changes in the brain produce neurological and mental illness.
Kafui has served on the Board of Directors of the Student National Medical Association: a national organization dedicated to the eradication of health care disparities. He has participated in numerous programs geared towards exposing youth to science and technology and providing health education for under served communities. He has received many awards and honors, including the One Mind Institute Rising Star Award in 2011 and the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers in 2016.
Kafui's ultimate goal is to combine his research, medical training and community experience to improve outcomes for diverse communities suffering from neurological and psychiatric illness.
Mapping the structure of emotions
Many cortical and subcortical regions contribute to complex social behavior; nevertheless, the brain architecture whereby the brain integrates this information to encode rewarding socioemotional behavior remains unknown. Here we measure electrical activity from eight brain regions as mice engage in a social preference assay. We then use machine learning to discover an explainable brain network that encodes the extent to which mice choose to engage another mouse. This socioemotional network is organized by theta oscillations leading from prelimbic cortex and amygdala that converge on ventral tegmental area, and network activity is synchronized with brain-wide cellular firing. The network generalizes, on a mouse-by-mouse basis, to encode socioemotional behaviors in healthy animals, but fails to encode an appetitive socioemotional state in clinically relevant animal models of social dysfunction. Thus, our findings reveal the architecture whereby the brain integrates spatially distributed activity across timescales to encode an appetitive socioemotional brain state in health and disease.