Danielle Bassett, Ph.D.

Perturbation and Control for Human Brain Network Dynamics

The human brain is a complex organ characterized by heterogeneous patterns of interconnections. New non-invasive imaging techniques now allow for these patterns to be carefully and comprehensively mapped in individual humans, paving the way for a better understanding of how wiring supports our thought processes. While a large body of work now focuses on descriptive statistics to characterize these wiring patterns, a critical open question lies in how the organization of these networks constrains the potential repertoire of brain dynamics.  In this talk, I will describe an approach for understanding how perturbations to brain dynamics propagate through complex writing patterns, driving the brain into new states of activity. Drawing on a range of disciplinary tools – from graph theory to network control theory and optimization – I will identify controlpoints in brain networks, characterize trajectories of brain activity states following perturbation to those points, and propose a mechanism for how network control evolves in our brains as we grow from children into adults. Finally, I will describe how these computational tools and approaches can be used to better understand the brain’s intrinsic control mechanisms and to inform stimulation devices to control abnormal brain dynamics, for example in patients with medically refractory epilepsy.


Danielle Bassett headshotDanielle S. Bassett is the Eduardo D. Glandt Faculty Fellow and Associate Professor in the Department of Bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania. She is most well known for her work blending neural and systems engineering to identify fundamental mechanisms of cognition and disease in human brain networks. She received a B.S. in physics from Penn State University and a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Cambridge, UK as a Churchill Scholar, and as an NIH Health Sciences Scholar. Following a postdoctoral position at UC Santa Barbara, she was a Junior Research Fellow at the Sage Center for the Study of the Mind. She has received multiple prestigious awards, including American Psychological Association’s ‘Rising Star’ (2012), Alfred P Sloan Research Fellow (2014), MacArthur Fellow Genius Grant (2014), Early Academic Achievement Award from the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (2015), Harvard Higher Education Leader (2015), Office of Naval Research Young Investigator (2015), National Science Foundation CAREER (2016), Popular Science Brilliant 10 (2016), Lagrange Prize in Complex Systems Science (2017), Erdos-Renyi Prize in Network Science (2018). She is the author of more than 190 peer-reviewed publications, which have garnered over 14000 citations, as well as numerous book chapters and teaching materials. She is the founding director of the Penn Network Visualization Program, a combined undergraduate art internship and K-12 outreach program bridging network science and the visual arts.  Her work has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Army Research Office, the Army Research Laboratory, the Office of Naval Research, the Department of Defense, the Alfred P Sloan Foundation, the John D and Catherine T MacArthur Foundation, the Paul Allen Foundation, the ISI Foundation, and the University of Pennsylvania.