Saul Kato, PhD

Asst Professor in Residence

How does the brain produce flexible and effective behavior?

Our lab develops and applies computational, cutting-edge engineering, and experimental approaches to basic and applied neuroscience and build theories of brain function. We also collaborate with other labs to apply our tools to probe brain dysfunction and disease.

The production of flexible but controlled behavioral sequences in simpler animals may be an evolutionary foundation for higher cognitive abilities in humans. I study how real-time function emerges from the nervous system of C. elegans, a 1 millimeter long roundworm. Despite having only 302 neurons, this animal has a rich behavioral repertoire including probabilistic and directed taxis, associative learning, cooperation, and coordinated body movement. I combine dynamical systems analysis with the development and application of high-throughput, high-resolution neural activity imaging technologies to understand how this "low-n" neural network processes sensory stimuli and integrates them with an evolving internal state in order to produce competent, continuous behavior.

On an entirely different evolutionary branch, organisms acquired the ability to harness large pools of largely undifferentiated neurons and shape them through development and learning in order to flexibly solve problems and drive complex tasks, thereby getting around the limited information capacity of the genome. I am also interested in understanding how these "high-n" neural systems achieve what they do, and determining what ingredients, or rules of assembly and operation, are required in order for such sophisticated problem-solving functions to emerge.


Hierarchical confounder discovery in the experiment-machine learning cycle

Cell Patterns

Rogozhnikov A, Ramkumar P, Bedi R, Kato S, Escola GS.

minimo: a linked data and metadata storage system for small labs

Journal of Open Source Software

Borchardt J, Dunn R, and Kato S

Pycro-Manager: open-source software for customized and reproducible microscope control.

Nature methods

Pinkard H, Stuurman N, Ivanov IE, Anthony NM, Ouyang W, Li B, Yang B, Tsuchida MA, Chhun B, Zhang G, Mei R, Anderson M, Shepherd DP, Hunt-Isaak I, Dunn RL, Jahr W, Kato S, Royer LA, Thiagarajah JR, Eliceiri KW, Lundberg E, Mehta SB, Waller L

Soma-Targeted Imaging of Neural Circuits by Ribosome Tethering.


Chen Y, Jang H, Spratt PWE, Kosar S, Taylor DE, Essner RA, Bai L, Leib DE, Kuo TW, Lin YC, Patel M, Subkhangulova A, Kato S, Feinberg EH, Bender KJ, Knight ZA, Garrison JL

Regulation of two motor patterns enables the gradual adjustment of locomotion strategy in Caenorhabditis elegans.


Hums I, Riedl J, Mende F, Kato S, Kaplan HS, Latham R, Sonntag M, Traunmüller L, Zimmer M

Global brain dynamics embed the motor command sequence of Caenorhabditis elegans.


Kato S, Kaplan HS, Schrödel T, Skora S, Lindsay TH, Yemini E, Lockery S, Zimmer M

Simultaneous whole-animal 3D imaging of neuronal activity using light-field microscopy.

Nature methods

Prevedel R, Yoon YG, Hoffmann M, Pak N, Wetzstein G, Kato S, Schrödel T, Raskar R, Zimmer M, Boyden ES, Vaziri A

Neuropeptide feedback modifies odor-evoked dynamics in Caenorhabditis elegans olfactory neurons.

Nature neuroscience

Chalasani SH, Kato S, Albrecht DR, Nakagawa T, Abbott LF, Bargmann CI