︎In a nutshell


Starting with clinical/abnormal psychology, I slowly found a thing for neurobiological mechanisms underlying behavior and cognition. So I started my graduate studies in neuroscience, aiming to be a cognitive neuroscientist. But I started learning about animal behaviors, biological complexity, and so-called “wet neuroscience”. During that time, I realized how weird animals are (seriously tho, aren’t they?) and got attracted to evolutionary perspectives and the beauty of behaviors themselves. Thinking about giving up on human brains and sticking to rats or something, I was introduced to computational neuroscience. Well, my promiscuous attention span couldn’t say no to that either. A couple of seminal papers later, I finally settled on being interested in the neural network models of cognition and behavior. Of course, I still love reading and thinking about neuronal underpinnings of psychiatric disorders and animal behaviors, but now we’re just very good friends who hang out sometimes.

︎Education


Ph.D. Candidate @The Institute of Computational Neuroscience, UKE Hamburg.

November 2019 - Present

I study the brain-behavior relationship. I want to “understand the brain” by quantifying how much its elements - neural circuits and brain regions - are causally relevant for its function. I use systematic lesioning to quantify elements’ contributions, and since large-scale experimental lesions are infeasible, I use artificial neural network models as toy models of brains. The goal is to see how much information about networks’ inner mechanisms can be gained by decomposing them into pieces and naturally, how to effectively use the results to guide in-vivo experiments.


MSc Neuroscience @Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg.

October 2016 - September 2018

The focus of my program was on “Sensory systems” on multiple levels. I had different courses from cognitive neuroscience, to behavioral ecology, neurophysiology, and statistical learning. I joined the Biological Psychology Lab in 2017 and had my thesis on the Cocktail party effect using fMRI.


BSc Clinical Psychology @Roudehen Azad University of Tehran.

October 2009 - December 2015

I studied the biological foundations of mental disorders, diagnosis, nosology, clinical interview, basic statistics, and seminal theories in psychology. I had my thesis on inducing agitation and a sense of presence using music. The idea was to find core components of the soundtracks from horror movies. It didn’t really work.


︎Academic Experiences


Teacher Assistant @Neuromatch Academy

July 2020

Neuromatch Academy is an online school of computational neuroscience during the lockdown due to the Corona pandemic. I was a TA there, learning a lot and finding very nice friends.

Research Assistant @Zatorre lab, McGill University, Montreal Neurological Institute.

July 2018 - September 2018

For my MSc thesis, I studied auditory attention in a complex environment (cocktail-party effect) using fMRI and analyzed the data using Inter-Subject Correlation (ISC). I was supervised by Dr. Sebastian Puschmann, Dr. Mor Regev, Prof. Dr. Christiane Thiel, and Dr. Robert Zatorre.

Research Assistant @Basal Ganglia, Motivation and Reward lab, Timone Institute of Neuroscience.

October 2017 - April 2018

I studied the role of the hyperdirect pathway in the motivation for reward and cocaine for my MSc research project. I learned how to handle rodents, perform stereotaxic surgeries, implant catheters, and used chemogenetics to target the hyperdirect pathway. I was supervised by Dr. Christelle Baunez, Dr. Alix Tiran Cappello, and Dr. Jannis Hildebrandt.

Research Assistant @School of Cognitive Sciences, Institute for Research in Fundamental Sciences.

August 2015 - October 2016

I was involved in two projects, one about the role of Oxytocin in human observational learning and the other about the network differences between patients with ADHD and control subjects. I was supervised by Dr. Hossein Vahabie.


︎Academic Works


Selected Publications (see my Google Scholar page for more):


Fakhar, K., Hadaeghi, F., Seguin, C., Dixit, S., Messe, A., Zamora-Lopez, G., Misic, B., & Hilgetag, C. (2024). A General Framework for Characterizing Optimal Communication in Brain Networks. [submitted]

Fakhar, K., Dixit, S., Hadaeghi, F., Kording, K. P., & Hilgetag, C., 2024. Downstream network transformations dissociate neural activity from causal functional contributions. Nature Scientific Reports.

Puschmann, S., Regev, M., Fakhar, K., Zatorre, R., & Thiel, C., 2024. Attention-driven modulation of auditory cortex activity during selective listening in a multi-speaker setting. Journal of Neuroscience.

Popova M., Fakhar, K., Braun W., 2022. “One region to control them all”- the surprising effectiveness of network control theory in predicting post-stroke recovery from aphasia. Frontiers in Computational Neuroscience.

Fakhar, K., Hadaeghi, F., Hilgetag, C., 2022. Causal Influences Decouple From Their Underlying Network Structure In Echo State Networks. International Joint Conference on Neural Networks.

Fakhar, K., Hilgetag, C., 2022. Systematic Perturbation of an Artificial Neural Network: A Step Towards Quantifying Causal Contributions in The Brain. PLOS Computational Biology.

Invited Talks:

@Hamburg Institute for Advanced Study, 2023
A game-theoretical account for communication dynamics in the human brain network.

@Hamburg Center for Neuroscience, 2023
No causation without (systematic) manipulation.

@Brain Modes Conference, 2022
Perturbation-based Brain Modes in Biological and Artificial Neural Networks.

@Spiking Neural networks as Universal Function Approximators (SNUFA) Seminars, 2022
A game-theoretical framework for quantifying causes in neural networks.

@IEEE World Congress on Computational Intelligence, 2022
Causal Influences Decouple From Their Underlying Network Structure In Echo State Networks.

Poster Presentations:

Fakhar, K., Hadaeghi, F., Seguin, C., Dixit, S., Messé, A., Misic, B., & Hilgetag, C., 2023. Harnessing Network Communication Models to Infer Brain-wide Causal Interactions in the Human Connectome. @Bernstein Conference.

Fakhar, K., Hadaeghi, F., Dixit, S., Messé, A., Misic, B., & Hilgetag, C., 2023. Causal Influence Decomposition of the Human Brain Using Extensive In-silico Perturbation Analysis. @Cognitive Computational Neuroscience (CCN).

Fakhar, K., Dixit, S., Hadaeghi, F., Kording, K., & Hilgetag, C., 2023. When Neural Activity Fails To Reveal Causal Contributions. @The Organization for Computational Neuroscience (OCNS).

Fakhar, K., Dixit, S., Hadaeghi, F., Kording, K., & Hilgetag, C., 2022. Deconstructing Nonlinearities in Neural Networks to Understand Who is Doing What. @Bernstein Conference.

Fakhar, K., Hadaeghi, F., & Hilgetag, C., 2022. Communication and Causation in the Human Brain. @The Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS) Forum.

Fakhar, K., Hilgetag, C., 2021. Systematic Perturbation of an Artificial Neural Network: A Step Towards Quantifying Causal Contributions in The Brain. @The Organization for Computational Neuroscience (OCNS).

Fakhar, K., Hilgetag, C., 2020. Causal Brain Mapping of Artificial Neural Networks by Game Theory: A Case for in-silico Multi-Perturbation Experiments. @The International School and Conference on Network Science (NetSci).

Fakhar, K., Tiran Cappello, A., & Baunez, C. 2018. Role of the hyperdirect pathway in motivation for food and cocaine: a chemogenetic investigation. @The Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS) Forum.

Miscellaneous:

Fakhar, K., Dixit, S., 2024. YANAT: Yet Another Network Analysis Toolkit.

Fakhar, K., Dixit, S., 2021. MSA: A compact Python package for Multiperturbation Shapley value Analysis.

Peer-reviewing Experiences:

Network Neuroscience
Nature Communications
Nature Machine Intelligence
PLOS Computational Biology
Brain


︎Extracurricular Activities


Organizer and co-chair of the seminar series “Networks in artificial neural networks@ICNS

March 2024

I ended up accidentally organizing this seminar series in our institute by inviting like minded people at the same rough time window. It was a three-days interactive seminar series in which we discussed the role of networks in artificial neural networks, how do they emerge, how do they give rise to function, and related topics.

Co-organizer and co-chair of the symposium “Modeling large-scale brain networks and their disconnection in neurological disorders@DGKN

March 2023

Mariia Popova and I organized this symposium, which was about the prominent role of large-scale brain network models in providing mechanistic understanding of complex dynamical processes underlying brain-behavior relationships in health and disease.

Co-organizer and co-chair of the symposium “Searching for Causes and Mechanisms in the Brain@ICNS

Dec 2022

Mariia Popova, Claus Hilgetag and I organized this hybrid symposium on the notion of causality and mechanism in neuroscience. We invited philosophers and neuroscientists to discuss their works and try to address the gap in these fields. Read more here, and have a look at the presentations in our YouTube channel.

Co-organizer of the Science Communication Workshop @Interdisciplinary College

March 2022

With Jens-Steffen Scherer and Valerie Vaquet, we organized a four-sessions workshop on science communication. I was mainly responsible for the session “visual communication” in which I presented methods to translate processes into simple visual diagrams.


Organizer of the Visual Communication Workshop @Institute of Neuroscience, Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg

June 2018

I organized and tutored a workshop on visual communication for the interested students. We discussed effective data visualization and how to use simple principles of design to have better figures.


︎Achievements


Best Ph.D. Paper Award of the Collaborative Research Center 936 (CRC 936)

Our paper Systematic Perturbation of an Artificial Neural Network: A Step Towards Quantifying Causal Contributions in The Brain was awarded the best Ph.D. paper of the CRC 936 in 2022.

SMARTstart fellowship

Bernstein Network provides this fellowship for those who are planning to have their Ph.D. studies in computational neuroscience. I was covered for a year to learn analytical tools and experimental techniques that are necessary for my Ph.D. study.

Scholarship by A*Midex fellowship

A total amount of €6,000 for my internship at Timone Institute of Neuroscience.

Travel grant by DAAD STIBET

A total amount of €1,400 for my internship at the Montreal Neurological Institute.

Travel grant by The Neuroscience MSc program of CVO

A total amount of €400 to supplement my internship at the Montreal Neurological Institute.

Finalist at NENS best undergraduate students' poster

Among roughly 170 submissions, my poster was selected as one of the three MSc posters to be presented in the NENS poster fair held in FENS 2018.


︎Other Experiences


Collaborative Research Center 936 (CRC 936)

Nov 2022 - Jun 2023: Ph.D. students’ representative (Volunteer)

Neuromatch Organization

Jan 2022 - Present: Graphic designer and creative director (Volunteer)

Interdisciplinary College

March 2022 - Present: Graphic designer (Volunteer)

Institute of Neuroscience, Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg

October 2016 - October 2017: Students’ representative of the MSc neuroscience admission committee
October 2016  - December 2018: Member of neuroscience student body council

Eshareh Creative Solution

December 2014 - September 2016: Creative and graphic designer

Behnam Daheshpour Charity Organisation

July 2009 - December 2015: Graphic designer and creative director (Volunteer)

World Food Programme (WFP)

June 2013 - December 2015: Graphic designer and creative director (Volunteer)
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